Hookas at Erenler Çay Nargile Bahçesi

Perhaps it is because water pipes will forever be associated with the trippy smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, or, in my MTV filled mind, the awesomely wacky Tom Petty “Don’t Come Around Here No More” video, but there is something intrinsically exotic yet familiar about Istanbul’s hookah bar culture.

It’s not uncommon for non-smokers to dismiss the appeal of such cafes, and visit Istanbul without stopping at one, but to do so is to overlook a charming part of Turkish culture.

Istanbul’s nargile café culture isn’t really about getting your smoke on, although that happens. Nargile cafes serve as a place where friends can catch over a cup of Turkish coffee, a cup of tea and share a nargile pipe. The nargile can be filled with numerous flavors of tobacco and then piped through water or juice for extra flavor. The effort and ceremony involved in ordering (and smoking a hookah) with friends forces a certain degree of intimacy and allows patrons to get beyond the idle chit chat you might have while waiting in line for your pumpkin spiced latte at Starbuck’s. Other cities I’ve visited, such as Damascus, don’t have the same attitude towards women and water pipes and smoking is strictly acceptable for men only. This makes nargile cafes a fun place to sit back and people watch.

Erenler Çay Nargile Bahçesi Hookah Lounge

Smoking and Chatting

Puffs of Hookah Smoke, Fascinating to Watch and Photograph

On my last trip to Istanbul,   I didn’t smoke a nargile pipe myself, but I did find a new favorite Nargile cafe. It was hot and I was in the middle of a photo tour of the Grand Bazaar when when my tour guide suggested we sit for a few minutes to have a drink at the colorful and charming hookah garden called Erenler Çay Bahçesi. While I accidentally checked into the wrong geo pin on FourSquare, I remembered the café shared a name with Turkey’s  2003 winner of the Eurovision song contest (a factoid I learned from my friend, Jonathan).

It’s a charming shaded garden, filled with lanterns, glowing coals, and cozy groups of friends and it’s an enjoyable place to have a juice or coffee, even for the biggest non-smoker.

Erenler Çay Nargile Bahçesi

Mimar Hayrettin Mah. Yeniçeriler Cad. No:36

Eminönü-Beyazıy Fatih

İstanbul, Turkey

Burning Charcoal, getting ready for nargile pipes

Hookah Tubes

Erenler Çay Nargile Bahçesi Interior

Erenler Çay Nargile Bahçesi just a few blocks from the Grand Bazaar

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,