UMM AL QUWAIN // Residents, business owners and shop workers are enjoying the clearer air and easier parking after shisha cafes were told to move out of neighbourhoods.
In accordance with the federal law on tobacco, shisha cafe owners were told to relocate to industrial areas, and at least 100 metres from mosques and at least 150 metres from residential buildings, schools and hospitals.
The law was passed in 2009 but only came into effect last year.
“I am happy now that there is no shisha here because of smoke and unclean air,” said Rasheej Babu, an Indian cashier at an electrical hardware shop in Al Riqa. Even though the 40-year-old would often visit the Noor Al Sabah Cafeteria and Cafe that used to be close to his shop for shisha, he much prefers the cafe’s smoke-free atmosphere now that the water pipes are no longer available.
The move has meant that some cafes are now lying empty while others have been turned into restaurants and other businesses.
Ajmal Mohammed, who works at a travel agency, said he was delighted when the shisha cafes were told to move and is enjoying not being bothered by the smell and the smoke.
“Having a shisha cafe beside my work caused many problems, as the smell, noise and many shisha customers sitting in front of the office hindered the entry of my customers,” said the 26-year-old from India, adding that parking for his customers has improved greatly, which is helping to attract business.
Although the law meant relocating a 15-minute drive away from people’s homes, some cafe owners said the move has led to not only an increase in customers and income, but also rents.
“The cafe was small before, in an old, residential area with cheap rent, but now we increased the space, which increased the rent, income and customer numbers,” said Shrif Saeed, a manager at Al Madar Cafe.
Despite losing his job at the Al Basha Cafe, Shazib Abdulmajed said he was happy with the changes to the neighbourhood since the cafes have closed.
“Residents who live in the building where the cafe was faced problems because of the smell, smoke and shouting of customers while watching football matches, and they complained,” said Mr Abdulmajed.
“Sometimes students who are under the age of 18 used to come to the cafe because it is close to their school, so one day officials from the government came to the cafe and told us that it is not allowed to give shisha to those under 18, and the manager agreed and stopped that,” said the 25-year-old from Bangladesh, who spent three years making sure shisha smokers had enough hot coals on their pipes.
Instead of moving to industrial areas in UAQ like the rest of the cafes, the owner of Al Basha left the emirate and moved to Dubai, said Mr Abdulmajed who now works as a salesman.
Shanavas Ummer, 30, who works in a pharmacy close to where Al Basha Cafe was located, said he was not bothered by shisha being sold close to his work, but was concerned the smoke and smell was not good for patients who came to buy medicine.
“Patients who have asthma, for example, faced health difficulties while coming to the pharmacy because of the smoke and unclean air. For this reason it is good that it closed.”