Across the Middle East, smoking shisha is a popular way to relax, and Jeddah is no exception. What Saudi Arabia’s cultural capital brings to the table is a prime location on the Red Sea and year-round balmy evening temperatures. Outdoor patios and open-air roof terraces are scattered across the city, and many keep serving into the small hours.
Smoking tobacco products, including shisha, is still a favourite local pastime, even if it is becoming more expensive as government regulations and hiked-up taxes are introduced. Rings of scented smoke waft into the humid midnight air as the water pipe gurgles and is passed around among friends. Dedicated shisha cafés aren’t the only ones serving up water pipes – they can often be ordered in Middle Eastern restaurants and hotels across the city too. Here’s where to find the best shisha cafés in Jeddah.
On Prince Sultan Road, Shababik Restaurant is an authentic Lebanese place serving up an extensive menu of hot and cold mezze plates and grilled meat dishes. After dining, head out to the open-air terrace and order a narjileh (the word for shisha used in the Levant). Unlike many other shisha spots, Shababik offers ajami narjileh, which is made of unflavoured and unsweetened tobacco.
With dim lighting, darkly painted walls and an exposed industrial-style ceiling, El Diamanté restaurant on Prince Sultan Road makes for a great place to wind down from the day. Although there isn’t any outside space, the lounge has a slanted glass-panelled wall that provides good views of the city. The list of shisha flavours is lengthy, but a popular favourite is its namesake El Diamanté, which is a delightful tropical twist. Another interesting option is Mistika, a resin from the mastic tree with notes of pine or cedar that is used to make Turkish ice cream ‘elastic’ and is sometimes called Arabic gum.
Right on the coastline, the large patio-style outdoor lounge at Jeddah’s Park Hyatt hotel is a great setting for an evening of shisha smoking. These seats overlook the famous King Fahd Fountain, which is the largest in the world at 312 metres (1,020 feet). Lit by 500 spotlights that flick on after sunset, it is a particularly atmospheric spot to enjoy shisha. The Park Hyatt is a five-star resort, so prices don’t come cheap, but the unobstructed view is worth it alone.
Sofa Lounge is true to its word with comfortable padded seating and colourful fluffy cushions. The decor is modern with exposed light bulbs and dangling icicle fairy lights. Grab a seat outside as sunset nears. During the day, Sofa Lounge is a good place to bring your laptop and catch up on emails, but as the hours tick on, it can start to feel more like a club, with loud music and large crowds.
Nestled in Jeddah’s Ar Rawdah neighbourhood on the 12th floor of Al Khayyal Tower, Venue12 certainly takes the lounge experience to a whole new level. The decor leans more towards a surrealist art installation than a standard shisha lounge. A huge central light fixture with long swooping pipes makes it look like an organ straight out of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, and bright neon lights pop up in crystal skulls. Order one of the virgin cocktails served in test tubes to accompany the shisha. Wicker-backed chairs are tucked under marble-topped tables, and rows of small palms separate the rows; nab one of the suspended egg chairs near the windows if you can.
Agave is known for its Mediterranean dishes from Italy and Lebanon, however it has also become one of the best shisha spots in town. Sleek decor with gold-coloured accents elevates the vibe, as does its lofty perch over the city. The shisha flavours are on the sweet side, but the strawberry or the mix of grape and pomegranate are highly popular. Some nights, Agave also hosts live music. With two branches in Jeddah, find one on Prince Sultan Street and the other on Tahliah Street.
Sit back and relax in the plush blue velvet booths at Chill Lounge. The crowd is young, and the decor is modern, with plants hanging from the ceiling, and electric sockets with USB ports under every table. The view at sunset is spectacular. Unlike some other spots with more generic kit, Chill Lounge’s water pipes come with traditional Middle Eastern designs.
Many residents say this restaurant has the best and most authentic Yemeni food in town, however, Yemeni Village is also a classic café where one can relax with a shisha and cups of adani shai (milky tea) for hours. The decor is more subdued than some other places in the city with laid back, minimalist interiors, but sharing a shisha on traditionally patterned cushions on dark wood chairs is all you need for an afternoon of unwinding.
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