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Hubble-bubble trouble: Shisha ban goes up in smoke with ‘takeaways’

The shisha ban in public restaurants and cafes has taken effect in Jeddah, with the aim of protecting public health. However, soon after the ban was implemented, Jeddawis began searching for alternatives that would allow them to continue enjoying smoking shishas.
Arab News visited a shisha shop in north Jeddah and found the shop was sold out of shisha pipes.
“The business has been great and we have benefited a lot after the ban because people are buying the actual shisha from us and we provide them with the supplies as well,” said Abu Salma, Yemeni owner of the shop.
“The reason why we are now out of shishas is because a number of young men have just bought around 15 shishas from us for their beach house and they also purchased a huge amount of charcoal as well,” he added.
“I used to meet my friends at a local café shop everyday after Isha prayer to catch up, play cards and smoke shisha, but after the ban it was not the same, so we decided to rent a rest house for a year and hang out there,” said Motassem Kutbi, 34-year-old banker.
“We bought a number of shishas and hired a tea boy to take care of the rest house, prepare coffee, tea and of course shisha. Even though this costs us more but since we can’t smoke anywhere else, this allows us to socialize and smoke shisha,” he added.
Numerous new businesses have mushroomed in Jeddah to help shisha lovers evade the ban.
“Our Shisha-To-Go project that was launched late November 2012 and it started among family and friends but then we expanded quickly. Sometimes we are fully booked especially on weekends when people gather at a house, rest house or even a beach house,” said Omar Al-Saedi, founder of the Shisha-To-Go. “Our clients are mostly women and our job is to prepare the shisha and drop it at the location with all the essential equipment and charge them by the hour,” he added.
“We care about hygiene, so we ensure the shishas are properly cleaned. We also use disposable pipes to eliminate the threat of contagious diseases,” said Al-Saedi.
Electronic shishas have also invaded the market after the ban; many Jeddawis buy them from outside the country and sell them at double the price.
“This is a perfect product especially for those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of charcoals, which might burn the carpets,” said Sarah Motwalli, businesswoman.
“I started selling electronic cigarettes and electronic shishas when the ban was announced and my clients are mostly young women who do not want their parents to know about their smoking habit,” she said.
Motwalli said all they have to do is to charge the product using a USB and it will last for a long time.
“I buy my products from shops in London and sell them at a profit.
Youngsters in Jeddah don’t really care about the price, as long as it easy to carry around and enables them to avoid reproach from their parents,” she said.