Tracey Tong/Metro Ottawa


Lebanese Fun Festival organizer Yolanda Hanna, left, and Arguily lounge organizer Fadi Lteif prepare shisha prior to the festival’s opening yesterday afternoon in Ottawa.


It might not help with your daily fruit intake, but it’s one way to participate in a Lebanese tradition during Ottawa’s 17th annual Lebanese Festival in coming days.

Lined with dozens of tall water pipes prior to the festival’s kickoff at St. Elias Cathedral yesterday, the Arguily lounge was ready to go. Used to smoke fruit-flavoured tobacco, the pipes — combined with a bit of good conversation — are tradition in Lebanon, said Fadi Lteif, who is running the festival’s Arguily lounge.

“People socialize over a smoke,” he said.

The lounge has exploded in popularity recently. Last year, there were up to 150 of them on the floor at once, Lteif said. He estimates the lounge will serve 600 people this year.

The pipe used to smoke flavoured tobacco — called shisha — is used by men and women of all ages. Water is placed inside the vase of the pipe. The ceramic bowl, fitted on the top, is filled with flavoured tobacco and covered with a piece of tinfoil. A piece of burning charcoal is placed on the foil. The smoker then puffs from a hose attached to the pipe.

As a fruitier alternative, the ceramic tobacco bowl is replaced with a cored apple or piece of pineapple.

The Arguily lounge has been one of the most popular attractions at the event, said Lteif. And it’s just one of the ways people can experience Lebanese culture, said Yolanda Hanna, who is organizing this year’s festival with George Hanna (no relation).

“Older people can come enjoy a more cultural evening in the Arguily tent, but there are things to do for families with kids,” said Hanna.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, also features traditional Lebanese cuisine, an authentic marketplace with food and crafts and music and dance performances.

massive turnout

  • More than 40,000 attendees from Ontario, Quebec and the United States are expected over the course of the festival.