e49ad5c4ac158210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2010-02Shisha cafes face an uncertain futured49ad5c4ac158210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Shisha cafes face an uncertain futureThe new law will give owners time to move their businesses, but they say it is not enough; customers bemoan a lack of convenience.<p>ABU DHABI // A fresh breeze stirred the trees around the terrace of a shisha cafe off Al Falah Street yesterday, blowing away wisps of smoke as a few customers chatted quietly, drinking black tea and puffing on their water pipes.</p>
<p>The Al Qatab cafe is between Airport and Muroor roads, on the ground floor of a residential building. The scene is not uncommon here and in other emirates.
But under the new national anti-tobacco law, signed last week by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, hundreds of shisha cafes in residential areas must stop serving tobacco or move.
They were given two years to comply, but cafe owners said yesterday that was not enough time to find new locations because their options were limited.</p>
<p>The ban amounts to "depriving us of our livelihood", said Sabri Khader, manager of the Tche Tche cafe, which mostly caters to young Arab professionals.
"It's not easy to find an alternative location in two or three years," he said. "There has to be a logical solution. When you say [a smoking establishment] has to be far from residential areas, it means that 90 per cent of the city is out of our reach."</p>
<p>He said his shop constituted no harm since it was indoors and equipped with a smoke suction system.
"The idea is to protect non-smokers. As an indoor place, no one comes here to eat or drink - everyone knows that it's a shisha place," he said.
Mr Khader said he would not mind if authorities provided an area outside the city for shisha cafes, but added that they should be allowed to operate in cities in the meantime.</p>
<p>Patrons said the cafes in residential areas were both affordable and convenient. Walking to a cafe especially in a crowded neighbourhood of the capital like Khalidiya is much easier than trying to find a parking space, they said.
Also, many cafes allow customers to bring in food from nearby restaurants and have large TVs to broadcast football matches; they also offer video-game consoles, card sets and other games.</p>
<p>Ibrahim Ahmed, 25, of Egypt, was sitting on the terrace of the Al Qatab cafe with three friends, smoking saloom, his tobacco of choice, for which he pays Dh3.
Saloom is a plain-flavoured tobacco, and the coal is placed straight on it instead of using aluminium foil to insulate it from the charcoal.
He frequents the cafe during his daily break from his job as a salesman in a construction materials shop.</p>
<p>"This is my relaxing time," he said. "I smoke shisha, drink tea and sometimes watch football matches."
If the place was shut down, he said, he would be left with no options. If it stayed open, but did not serve shisha, he would still come to drink tea and smoke cigarettes, he said.
Going to an expensive place is out of the question.
"If I pay Dh30 (US$8) for a shisha, I would spend my salary in 15 days just on that," he said.</p>
<p>"In this cafe I pay Dh7 or Dh8 for shisha and tea."
He added that his landlord does not allow him to smoke shisha at his place or admit visitors.
"I can take a guest to this cafe, but I can't afford to go to other places," he said. "The only other option is either to sit in my room or walk in the street."
Abu Dhabi Municipality had announced plans in April 2008 to shift traditional shisha cafes away from family neighbourhoods in the city centre and into designated locations. But that plan has yet to materialise.</p>
<p>Mr Khader said the question remained whether the Government would provide an alternative that was not too far from the city.
"I don't mind somewhere off the highway, but no more than 50km [from Abu Dhabi]," he said. "But for now, I can't just go and look for a new location because I don't know what are the rules. If it shouldn't be in a residential area, how far away should it be? I am worried if I find a new location, I will be faced with the same problem again."</p>
<p>The manager of the Cuba cafe in Khalidiya, Ismail al Sharqawi, said introducing a smoking ban was a good thing but it would harm many people involved in the industry.
He said there were 16 employees in his cafe, six of whom were dedicated to preparing and serving shisha.
"It's a problem for them they've been here for years and each of them provides for a family," he said.
Abdul Raheem Manai, 27, of Tunisia, was sitting at the Cuba and said closing the place would not stop him from smoking.</p>
<p>"I will be forced to more expensive places that doesn't serve shisha with as good quality," the Etihad flight attendant said as he puffed his saloom.
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