Hookah Cafes Vs Internet Cafes [Archives:2001/13/Culture]

March 26 2001

Abdulhakeem Hashem
There is a certain kind of relations between the Hookah cafes and those of the Internet in Yemen. The two are new to the country and they have been able to attract large numbers of people, especially among the youth. They have also become profitable projects for many people.
Yemenis have been recently introduced to the Internet which was a result of marriage between the telecommunication and Information Revolutions to provide limitless information.
To make this feature available within the hands of the public many Internet cafes have been opened in many cities, although they have been concentrated in the main streets.
The Internet service was introduced to Yemenis in 1966 through the sole Internet service provider, Teleyemen. However, clients start to complain about the bad and slow services of this monopolizing company.
Other than the Internet cafes, there are about 6000 clients connected to Teleyemen. This number is expected to reach 100,000 if the other 10 companies which have submitted a request to provide Internet services in Yemen are given a go.
The hookah appeared among Yemenis during the Gulf War. It was brought by the Yemeni immigrants returning from the Gulf countries. It is as old as smoking. One of its names, narjeelah, can be an evidence of its old history. This name is derived from ‘narjeel’, the fruit of the coco-palm which was used as a container of water then the idea was developed.
In a visit to a number of cafes I talked to a number of people. Mokhtar Qassem, electrical engineer, has been smoking the hookah twice a week for a year. “We smoke in groups in cafes or houses in free times,” he said. He attributed spread of hookah smoking to the meetings of friends and the feelings of modernity that one’s gets when smoking. He goes to the Internet cafes once a week. This costs him about 400 rials. Most preferred programs are chatting and songs.
Ameen Sarhan, a university student, said that he smokes the hookah in cafes every week at the cost of 80 rials. As for Internet he said that he hears about it from friends.
Yasseen Abdulraqeeb, oil engineer, visits internee cafes once a week and spend 1-2 hours there. This costs him about 400-600 rials. “I always check my email and surf for scientific and social issues,” he said.
Yasseen has been smoking the hookah for three years. He meets his friends who do not chew qat in cafes where they smoke. He believes that the hookah is better than cigarettes which is smoked every time.


In the recent years, chewing qat has greatly spread among women. Women have their own meetings and their own special habits in passing time. As women can not go to hookah cafes, they smoke in their houses. A study has estimated female qat chewers between 25-32 years old at 43% of the total population and 25% among less than 15-year girls.
Hayat Abdu, employee, said that women first agree on a place in a friend’s who then prepares everything needed for the meeting: frankincense, some food and chocolates to be eaten before chewing qat, drinks, cassettes to listen and dance, and of course, the hookah. Topics discussed in these meetings are often, social and political. Some women take advantage of such meetings to market clothes, cosmetic, etc.
As for the Internet, Ms Arwa Mohammed, a university student said, although the number of women using Internet is increasing, Yemeni women are slowly acquainted with this great technology. “This is because of the high cost of computers and Internet services,” she said. “I feel shy to go to the Internet cafes because most visitors are men. I go there only when I urgently need it. But I know some friends who go their frequently,” she added.