Karbala: Keeping The Iraqi Shisha Tradition Alive

Published November 17th, 2020 - 08:56 GMT

Karbala city in Iraq is not only well-known for its religious reasons, as it is usually visited by millions of pilgrims. However, it is also famous for its shisha-smokers place: Its signature wooden waterpipes.

Cafes have continued to work normally despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq.

Hassan Ali, a cafe owner, is serving endless streams of sweet tea to customers sipping on locally-made waterpipes; the hubbly-bubbly in his cafe are carved from local white willow wood.

Mohamed Baqer, a moustached 56-year-old has spent 30 years of his life as a carpenter. He is one of the last woodworkers keeping the craft alive in Karbala.

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A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. MOHAMMED SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. MOHAMMED SAWAF / AFP

Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The narguileh business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The narguileh business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

An employee cleans narguilehs (water pipes) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

An employee cleans narguilehs (water pipes) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

Employees prepare narguilehs (water pipes) for customers at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

Employees prepare narguilehs (water pipes) for customers at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe)at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe)at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP

A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. MOHAMMED SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The narguileh business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
An employee cleans narguilehs (water pipes) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Employees prepare narguilehs (water pipes) for customers at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe)at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. MOHAMMED SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. MOHAMMED SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The narguileh business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The narguileh business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
An employee cleans narguilehs (water pipes) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
An employee cleans narguilehs (water pipes) at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Employees prepare narguilehs (water pipes) for customers at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Employees prepare narguilehs (water pipes) for customers at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
A carpenter shaves a piece of wood to make a narguileh (water pipe) at his workshop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe)at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP
Iraqi men smoke narguileh (water pipe)at a coffee shop in Iraq's central holy city of Karbala on October 21, 2020. The business of strictly gender-separated cafes has carried on, despite the heavy health risks associated with smoking and a full-blown pandemic that has brought an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases a day to Iraq. Mohammed SAWAF / AFP