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Brooklyn today: hookah pipes and belly dancers

Who would have thunk 60 years ago that Bensonhurst, an enclave of Italians and Jews, would also be home to so many other cultures and religions today?Who would have thunk that this non-smoking Italian/American boy would be smoking and enjoying a hookah pipe on Bath Avenue?Do you know how many Technicolor movies I watched in my youth with sultry Maria Montez, John Hall, and Sabu in Grandiose Palaces, Bazaars and Cafés where patrons enjoyed smoking their hookah?A hookah should not be confused with hookers, another form of very popular ancient entertainment to be savored, and one of the very oldest professions.

A hookah has various names in different countries: nargile in Turkish, narguileh in Lebanese and Syrian dialects, ghalyun in Persian or shisha in Arabic: Shee-sha is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) implement for smoking tobacco. Originally from India hookah has gained popularity, especially in the Middle East and is gaining popularity in North America and Europe, not to mention Porto Marina on Bath Ave and 17th Avenue.Where young men and women (mostly non-muslim) have come to meet, socialize and enjoy this ancient Middle Eastern craze.

Porto Marina has become very popular with young adults who enjoy this combination of “Friends”, sitting on couches and “Cheers,” where everyone knows your name.In a corner storefront with large showcase windows, this hookah lounge/café/restaurant serves potent coffees and delicious Middle Eastern favorites...Shish-kabob, anyone?Colorful and inviting from the outside, everyone turns to see who is entering or joining them, it has become an in-spot as well as a favorite meeting place for college students.Every table shares a hookah brewing fruit flavored tobacco and molasses, using individual mouthpieces while exhaling sweet smelling smoke.It was interesting to see a full house during a midweek evening. Wish I could say that for all the restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.

On Friday nights, Belly Dancers perform to whet your appetite for beauty, choreography and exciting music%u2026truly reminiscent of Arabian nights with exotic veils and stunning bodies to melt any form of anxiety you might be harboring.In a previous column, I wrote of LaUra, an international Belly Dancer who not only won in competitions but also teaches Belly Dancing and her BellyTrance which is found on line: www.bellytrancegroup.com and www.dancelaura.com.LaUra is a must see and I’m looking forward to watch her perform in person again as well as the other Belly Dancers that perform in Porto Marina.Incidentally, don’t be fooled by the Italian sounding name, Porto Marina is a port in Egypt where the friendly hosts who are brothers, Feeriq and Yasser, are from, Alexandria, Egypt. Their Porto Marina Cafe at 1671 Bath Avenue and corner of 17th Avenue, Bensonhurst Brooklyn, is cozy with a relaxing atmosphere, best hookah rivaling those in Bay Ridge with very reasonable prices, with Egyptian and modern contemporary music and videos, sports on plasma screens.

Porto Marina features Hookah, Middle Eastern speciality foods, snacks and beverages, Turkish Coffee, Mint Tea, Belly Dancing on Friday nights, DJ music and is Open 7 days from mid-afternoon - till wee hours of the morning. Middle Eastern decor, colorful couches, sofas, tables.

Hookahs use a vast array of fruit flavored tobaccos and specialty hoohah, some prepared with actual “bowls” of fresh fruit like apple, orange and pineapple, Imported Fruit flavored molasses infused tobaccos and natural tobaccos.

Port Marina popularity has developed into a new rage and catching on like wildfire. It is a great place to mingle in our own neighborhood and accepts most credit cards. Hope to see you there soon.

Screech at you next week!

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