A tradition has just gone up in smoke for the women of Gaza.
Puffing on tobacco-infused water pipes in beachside cafes has been an activity enjoyed by both sexes until now. But the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas have just banned females from indulging.
“The government’s recent decision to bar women from smoking water pipes on the Gaza beach, particularly in open spaces, is because it is incompatible with the inherited habits of the Palestinian people,” said Hamas police spokesman Ayman Batneeji.
“It is also meant to prevent the transfer of this habit onto future generations and children.”
While many in Gaza are conservative Muslims who may well rejoice, others condemn moves to curb already limited leisure activities in the blockaded Strip.
“It should not be down to the government or any other party to ban the water pipe,” said Gaza resident Ashraf.
“This is a personal freedom. The water pipe is the same as tobacco. If they want to ban it, then cigarettes must be banned as well. I am not in favour of this decision.”
The water pipe ban for women is part of Hamas’s efforts to enforce a strict Muslim lifestyle. But cafe owners are also concerned, fearing a dramatic drop in customers in already difficult economic times.