Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hookah on Hillsborough

Just across from the D. H. Hill Library is a small, inconspicuous red building. While its look might imply a run-down old restaurant, Marrakesh Café is far from that; it’s a hookah bar, and with the closing of Maanjri Lounge earlier this year, it’s the only one on Hillsborough Street. A hookah is, according to the Marrakesh website, an “ancient water pipe invented by the Turks over 500 years ago.” A small amount of flavored tobacco is inserted at its top, and at the bottom a chamber of water acts as a cooling filter. Pipes extending from its middle are used to smoke the tobacco. Unlike cigarettes; however, nicotine intake is minimum, since the water filters most of it out. As a result, hookah smoking is considerably less dangerous and addictive than regular smoking.

Marrakesh is set up with the Middle Eastern origin of the hookah in mind. The walls are adorned with many Arabic decorations and ornamental lights hang from the ceiling. Customers sit on low cushions and smoke from hookahs set on small tables. The lights are dimmed, and on busy nights the air is thick with smoke. Contemporary dance music from the Middle East usually plays loudly from the speakers overhead. Marrakesh offers a variety of tobacco flavors, from apple to licorice, though most are fruit-flavored. For $6.00, two people can share one hookah. In addition, Marrakesh also sells a variety of Turkish foods, as well as personal hookahs.

The café is open from ten in the morning until midnight or later on every day of the week besides Sunday, on which it opens at 5 p.m. and closes at midnight. Overall, it doesn’t get too busy until after 9 p.m. When it does get busy; however, it’s not uncommon to see the floor completely packed. Marrakesh features a belly dancer every Saturday night at 10 p.m., which is typically the busiest time of the entire week. While most of Marrakesh’s customers are Middle Eastern in ethnicity, it’s not uncommon to see people of all backgrounds enjoying the atmosphere of the place.



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