When visiting another country, engaging in some of the more unique local practices is something you should try out. While in the mystical city of Marrakesh, taking part in a shisha-smoking session will let you experience an ancient communal event and appreciate the culture of Morocco a little better.
The ‘shisha’ or ‘hookah’ was invented over 500 years ago and was once confined to the upper classes of the Arab world. Over time, use of the shisha has become popular among many different cultures and income levels, but it still retains the air of elegance inspired by its elite beginnings.
The pipe uses a small bed of charcoal to heat flavour-infused tobacco to release the aroma. The tobacco is not burned and the smoke is filtered through water making a smooth, flavourful vapor that the smoker inhales. Shishas can be large or small and have a single hose, or be many-hosed.
Before sitting down to smoke, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some of the expectations of smoking a communal pipe. Most revolve around basic courtesy. First and foremost, respect the rules of the café or home where you’re smoking. First–time smokers are expected to ask for advice to both respectful of others. And if you aren’t made aware of any specific rules, follow these guidelines:
- Never light a cigarette from the hookah coals. This is fairly universal and is both disrespectful to the other smokers and contaminates the coals. Also, the coals are hot and you could lose your eyebrows!
- Don’t keep the hose for a long time; take two or three puffs and pass the hose to the next person. When use a multi-hose shish, wait until the other person has finished smoking before taking your puffs.
- When passing the hose, don’t point the tip at the next user. It’s best to fold the hose with the tip pointing at yourself and pass it that way. It’s also permissible to set the hose on the table and allow the other person to pick it up.
- The shisha should be set up on the floor, not the table. A variety of reasons are given for this, but the most sensible is that it’s more difficult to knock over if it’s on the floor.
- In some cultures it is rude to use your left hand for anything. Unless you know otherwise, always use your right hand when smoking and passing the hose.
Cafes in Marrakesh
When considering where to smoke shisha in Marrakesh, chose either a respected restaurant or a hotel bar. Avoid places recommended by cab drivers or random shopkeepers as they may be subject to raids.
Lebanon Café near the Hotel Dellarosa is mainly a shisha bar with a selection of tobacco flavours as well as coffee and tea on the menu. They use traditional charcoal to heat the tobacco rather than petroleum discs that are found in many other cafes. There’s frequently live music to listen to although the bands are silent when there’s a football match on television.
Le Salama is in the heart of Marrakesh and not only has delicious food on the menu, but shisha as well. Although the restaurant looks a bit formal when you walk in, it quickly becomes obvious that it’s really more of a bar with music and dancing until 1am. The rooftop is the best place to sit and enjoy the views.
The Sky Bar at the Montecristo is an upscale place to enjoy some elegance and try shisha. The roof is glass and it can be opened to let you enjoy and evening under the stars while protected from the wind and elements if necessary. The food in the restaurant is excellent and stopping there before heading upstairs to the bar is a great way to start the evening.
La Tanjia is close to the Palais El Badi and is another great place to stop in for a meal and a pleasant afternoon of shisha. The rooftop terrace is great when the weather is fine and the restaurant periodically has belly dancers entertaining the diners.