Hamdy Kishk, a former lawyer in his native country of Egypt and a father of four, truly knows what it means to be a "people person." When he decided to open a hookah bar called King Tut in the University area (9620 University City Blvd.) last June, he knew that he wanted to learn from the people who would visit his lounge and help international students feel like they have a second home. He readily offers handshakes and hugs to customers who come into King Tut for a leisurely smoke.
Creative Loafing: You lived in New York for 18 years before moving to Charlotte with your family. What inspired you to go into the hookah business?
Hamdy Kishk: Hookah is a part of Middle Eastern culture. It's everywhere in the Middle East, and I wanted to bring that to Charlotte. Someday, I wish to have franchises all over the state.
You have a very interesting past that includes practicing law in Egypt, and now you own a hookah lounge. What has your experience been like in this business?
Here, I'm from A to Z. I cover for anyone who is off ... anyone who doesn't show up. I'm here seven days a week, open to close, but I enjoy being around young people. I get people from all over the world. Between 18 and 33. Most of them, like 75 percent, are students, especially international students. But people don't just come here, have hookah and go — we have a relationship. I learn from others, even if they're young.
You mention how tough it can be to live in a country, and culture, that is foreign to you. How do you see this in your international customers?
I deal with them and see that they don't always see things clear or they're confused about this culture, and we talk about it. This is the most important thing ... how we deal with them and make them feel satisfied about coming here. It's not always about the hookah or the atmosphere.
So, obviously, you're a hookah man, too. What's your favorite flavor?
The Blue Mystic is very good. Also, double apple. Double apple is a combination of green apple and red apple and is very popular. The key to great hookah, though, is you have to get the hookah nice and clean — the hose, the vase. I make sure everyone uses a clean mouthpiece, too.