robertisenberg

Guided Tour : HKAN

In Guided Tour, Pittsburgh on September 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

Because of my loyalty to The Sphinx Café, I was reluctant to frequent HKAN—at first. Later I learned that shisha culture in Pittsburgh is extremely tight-knight, and proprietors went so far as to help each other out. The Sphinx is more authentic, HKAN is more like a lounge that happens to serve shisha.

Photograph of shishas for sale, Khan al-Khalili, Egypt.

HKAN is like no other place in the city: The brick walls, the tasteful Arab-fusion paintings, the bar offering strong teas and coffees – it’s like walking into a secret Middle Eastern speakeasy, where college kids and young professionals gather in smoky antechambers to discuss life, the universe, and their favorite flavors of tobacco. HKAN is the first major hookah bar to hit the city, and boasts packed tables long into the night – even after the bars have closed. The family-run business was an instant success, dedicating its fifty brands of tasty tobacco and its wide array of tall, elegant-looking shishas (the proper Egyptian word for hookah). The place harkens back to the streets of Cairo, where businesspeople of all classes gather in small shisha lounges and enjoy a siesta in their billowing clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. A relaxing late-night alternative to the anarchic drinking binges of Southside, HKAN demands that you arrive early: Come midnight, the waiting list is daunting.

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