Back in 2011, when Kawa, a Kurdish friend from Syria, decided to move from Damascus to Beirut, his very first job as an arguileh server was at a fancy-schmancy hotel café. Not only did he receive a standard monthly salary of $500, but he also lived in the fancy-schmancy hotel room with two other guys—for free—which also included some free meals and daily room cleaning and laundry services.

Little did Kawa know that he had been one of the lucky few who was able to experience the crème de la crème of such an occupation in Lebanon.

Whoa. Back up. Are we considering a $500 monthly salary crème de la crème?

Sadly, yup.



Did you know that our beloved arguileh guys—without whom we would never be able to bubble our ways into oblivion—make on average $150-$400 per month? I suppose there may be those who earn $500 per month, but let’s consider them the very rare and extremely lucky ones.

And did I also mention that most of these gigs do not include free rent? That’s right. How does one even begin thinking about paying for rent off of $200 per month? Well, these restaurant managers try to market themselves through lies: It’s $200 per month, but you’ll receive so many tips, they say. Lies.

It’s a given that servers at restaurants should be tipped. If it’s not a given, you should probably just stop going to restaurants. But tipping the arguileh server? Now that has always been a foreign concept—not only to foreigners, but locals, as well.

I’m here to tell you: Please get over it and start tipping.

You know how a group of elderly folk are notorious for not tipping their servers? Well, ask any arguileh server and he’ll tell you the worst kind of customer is a group of women— young or old—because of the low return on investment; they require so much attention, yet seldom leave any kind of tip.

So, how much should we be tipping?

If the arguileh server has set the tray of coals next to me, hinting—quite boldly—that it will be self-service, you best believe he won’t be getting one dollar from me, nor would he really expect to.

But the amount of your tip really depends on the type of service you’re getting.

1,000-2,000 LL: The server has set up the arguileh, placed the coals, and has expected you to give it a go and cough up a storm just to finally start tasting the flavors. It’s been a mediocre experience: you’ve had to wave your arms around like a crazy person and bug one too many servers just to have your coals refilled. And quite frankly, you’ve had better tasting arguilehs.

3,000-5,000 LL: This is the standard tip amount. The server has set up the arguileh, placed the coals, and has even given it a good five to ten puffs for you. He’s been quite attentive without a peep or complaint from you. To top it off, your arguileh has been one of the smoothest smokes you’ve had in a while!

6,000 LL-10,000 LL: This kind of tip is rare. Either you are moneybags, or he has done something to warrant such a good tip. If you’ve complained about the poor quality of your arguileh and the server has offered to change the head–honey, nothing is free. It might be “on the house,” but if you had any manners at all, you’d leave a couple extra thousand lira (in addition to the 3,000-5,000 LL base tip).

I’m a fan of honesty, so let’s just be frank. You definitely came to that restaurant not to eat, but to smoke, and smoke a lot. So send a little loving, appreciation, and moola to the enabler of your addiction: our beloved arguileh guys.




[Images via here, here and here.]

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Are you serious?

Abir Chami on Jul 16, 2015 via web