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Brazzil - Behavior - September 2004

Brazil's Latest Fad: the Narghile

The table pipe, which is very appreciated in the Arab countries,
became popular in Brazil during the last three years. Today the
narghile has become a way to lure Brazilian youths to the hip bars,
and is used by many, not only Arab immigrants descendants.
Importer Maxifour alone sells up to 300 units every month.

Isaura Daniel

Picture At least three times a week the entrepreneur Michel Wajchman, 24 years old, sits in his living room with friends or his girlfriend to smoke narghile.

Michel is not an Arab descendant, doesn't like cigarettes, but is part of a generation of Brazilian youths who is discovering the pleasures of the table pipe, very popular in Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iraq.

About seven months ago, a friend of Lebanese origin showed Michel the narghile. One month later he bought the gear, which is now a central piece when his friends, mostly from the corporate sector, get together to chat or talk about business.

The narghile transcended the doors of the Arab houses in São Paulo about two or three years ago. Today, not only do many Brazilians own their own narghiles, but the hip bars and restaurants in the city offer the pipe to their clients.

Alibabar, a chain of bars in the São Paulo neighborhoods Vila Olímpia and Jardim São Paulo for example, owns about 30 narghiles in each of the two units.

Entirely decorated with Arab articles, the bar normally receives clients varying from 20 to 40 years of age. "I had a narghile at home and I noticed my friends were interested in it," says Bil Rajab, one of the proprietors and Lebanese descendant.

When he opened the first bar in 2002 he had no doubts about transforming it into one of the establishment's attractions. And he was right. "When we have a full house, all narghiles are taken, there isn't one left," says Rajab.

A group will pay from US$ 5.00 to US$ 7.00 for a round, which lasts for about one hour and a half. The tobacco flavors available at the Alibabar are melon, double apple, mint, strawberry and assorted fruits. The most popular one, according to the owner, is the double apple.

However, not only the Arab places have narghiles. Bazzi, a trendy bar and flirting scenario to the sound of pop-rock music, also offer the pipe to their clients.

From Decoration to Application

Farid Mekhael Kheir, director of the Arab products retail and wholesale chain Maxifour, said he noticed a change in the buying trends along the last three years.

"People used to buy narghiles to decorate their houses, now it's for the real purpose," he stated. Kheir says the greatest increase in the demand for the pipe happened this year. "Today it is Brazilians who are buying and learning how to smoke narghiles, not only Arab descendants," he says.

Maxifour imports the devices from Syria and Lebanon and sells something between 200 and 300 units every month. The stores have both the simple types, made with light metal, and the more special kind, made of solid metal, glass and crystal.

The prices vary from US$ 43 to US$ 103. As well as the pipes, he also sells accessories and tobacco with the flavors double apple, almonds, mango, apricots, mint and orange flower.


The narghile has four parts: the bottom part called vessel or recipient, which holds the water that filters the tobacco; the pipe bowl at the top, where the flavored tobacco is placed; the tube or hose, through which the smoke passes; and the mouthpiece at the end of the tube. In bars and restaurants the mouthpiece normally is disposable.

The pipe is popular in most eastern countries. As well as the Arab countries, China, India, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran also enjoy the narghile. There are many versions to the story about its origins. Most theories however point at Turkey. The Arab countries would have incorporated the Turkish habit.

In some places the pipe is also called arghile. In Egypt, the narghile is known as shisha.

Isaura Daniel is a Brazilian journalist. This article was distributed by ANBA - Brazil-Arab News Agency.

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