As prevalent in parts of the Middle East and India as Starbucks are in the United States, shisha lounges and hookah bars, have survived the smoking ban and are experiencing a rise in popularity.

From the friendly ambience of many of these establishments to the uniquely relaxed mood of hookah smoking and the kid-in-a-candy store variety of flavourful tobaccos available, hookah lounges and bars have a lot on offer.

Much of this upsurge in popularity is due to college and university populations, who find hookah lounges an attractive way to spend quality time with friends in a sober, but socially easy, environment. Hookah lounges are big with students, but there are older sets of patrons on the scene as well, and a multiplicity of ethnicities and people from all walks of life can be found in various hookah lounges.

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Different hookah bars and lounges offer different things to go with the smoking experience. People come to share stories or play cards, backgammon, or chess.

Many lounges serve food and drink, from Turkish coffee, spicy chai, and honey-drenched bamieh fritters to foie gras and Moroccan spiced lamb, while hookah bars offer everything from wine and cocktails to package deals – including private booth or lounge, hookah, drinks, and appetisers – which run about $125 for four. Prices for shisha in lounges generally run from $10 to $20 per bowl.

Whatever’s on offer, people feel comfortable enough to linger, gathered round the hookah pipe.

Someone on staff – often the proprietor – is always happy to help those new to the experience of shisha smoking and guide them through it. Pipes are generally prepared for the patrons with whatever exotic flavour of tobacco they choose.

There’s usually a hookah coal carrier, circulating through the lounge with coals and tongs to replenish any waning hookah coals.

Music ranges from jazz to hip hop to tablah-backed Middle Eastern pop music, decor from re-interpretations of a Cairo cafe to tiki hut to sophisticated bar. Whether the people come to play games, drink cardamom-infused coffee, sip cocktails, or just kick back and relax, hookah lounges and bars offer a unique multicultural take on an age-old tradition.

Hookah and sheesha lounges in Singapore:

Ambrosia Lounge

25A Baghdad Street Singapore 199658

Tel: +65 6292 7313, SMS: 8165 3720

www.ambrosiacafesingapore.com

Cafe Le Caire

39 Arab Street, Singapore 199738

Tel: +65 6292 0979, Fax: +65 6297 0573

www.cafelecaire.com

Marrakesh – Moroccan Lounge & Bar

3D, #01-01 River Valley Road, Clarke Quay Singapore 179020

Tel: +65 6338 7331, Fax: +65 6338 7647

www.harrys.com.sg/Marrakesh.htm

Sahara Shisha Bar

58 Boat Quay Singapore 049847

Tel: 9100 1775

Samar Restaurant

60 Kandahar Street Singapore198906

Tel: +65 6398 0530

SanoBar

One Fullerton Road, #01-05, Singapore 049213,

Tel: +65 6423 9182

www.sanobar.com.sg

Shisha – Lounge Bar

3A River Valley Road #02-04, Clarke Quay Singapore 179020

Tel: +65 6333 4664, Fax: +65 6333 4669

www.ivorykitchen.com