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Customers watching a football match in a sheesha café in
Isa Town ... new clamp

Bahraini smokers rap new sheesha cafe timings

MANAMA, April 22, 2015

Smokers have spoken out against a new decision to regulate timings of sheesha cafes across Bahrain.

The Bahrainis told the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication, the move would ruin a "cultural pastime", while others feared it could jeopardise friendships as the cafes were the only places they gathered to socialise or watch football matches.

Some even went as far as describing the traditional cafe as a refuge they visited to get away from everyday stresses.

The GDN yesterday reported that the Cabinet endorsed the new rules, which state sheesha cafes will only be open until midnight on weekdays and until 1am on weekends.

"I don't agree with this decision at all," said 39-year-old Esam Naser, who works as a television presenter.

"I work late and finish at around 11pm, so when I am done all I want to do is go to the cafe near my house and unwind before going home at about 1am.

"I have stresses in my life and I am not a cigarette smoker, so sheesha calms me down and allows me to be well rested for the next day."

Another customer, Osama Khonji, said he visited cafes to avoid smoking in front of his children.

"Cafes in residential areas serve a purpose, and I understand that at night cars block the way for others but does that mean that even places like Amwaj [Lagoon] will not serve sheesha after a certain time - that is ridiculous," said the 39-year-old.


"I don't smoke at home because of my children, so if this law is implemented by everyone I guess I will have no other choice but to find an alternative.

"I would rather not, but what choice do I have - it is not like the people were consulted about this [decision] before."

The GDN reported Information Affairs Minister Isa Al Hammadi said on Monday that tourist-licensed outlets will not be affected by the decision, which was taken last week by the Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry and Interior Ministry.
It will only be enforced on cafes located in residential areas or those that have several complaints against them.

Outlets wishing to operate 24 hours have to get special permits from the country's three municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board, which replaced the Manama Municipal Council in December.

"I don't like the decision, but it makes sense for some places," said 20-year-old university student Hiba.

"A lot of people visit these cafes at night and in many cases their cars block roads and driveways.

"I don't know why they just don't give them all parking tickets or fine them for disturbing people - why are they introducing this new law? Problem cases should be dealt with individually.

"I like to go with my friends at night to watch football and smoke sheesha. My father doesn't know I smoke, so I can't do it at home or in a very busy tourist cafe. That is why I like the small ones near my home.

"I will not be able to sit with my friends if they go to other places because the ones in hotels sell alcohol and I don't want to be around that either."

Some Bahrainis said even though they did not smoke late at night they still felt the rule was against Arab culture.

"I think sheesha is a cultural thing, so no, they should not have limited the timings," said university student Fatima Ahmed, 22.

"I don't drink alcohol so what else can I do at night now? This is not a fair decision.

"What will happen is we will have to find a place that ignores the rule, but I am sure it will not be safe.

"Sheesha is a culture - we Arabs like to sit in cafes all night talking, smoking, playing cards and watching football until the early hours of the morning - especially on weekends.

"So now what will we do when everywhere else is closed - just sleep."

In 2006, a timing restriction on cafes was implemented by Bahrain's then five municipal councils, but was shelved after 10 days due to thousands of complaints submitted by business owners. - TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Bahrain | cafe | Sheesha | timing | smoker | regulate |

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