In celebrating a part of his own cultural identity, Zaher Fakih is out to embrace the world. With the opening of Nu Sanctuary in April, the Indianapolis-born, Lebanon-raised Fakih—known as “Z”—has created a lounge where global unity is the message and the hookah is the medium.
After Fakih, 28, returned to the United States 10 years ago to pursue a biology degree at UNLV, a cousin’s birthday party sparked his hookah dreams when some of the attendees offered to pay for a puff as Fakih smoked in the backyard. That led to a hookah gallery inside the Aladdin’s Desert Passage in 2003, then the birth of the Shisha Lounge in 2005 and the Almaza Hookah Café in 2006.
While those venues had a largely Middle Eastern flavor, Fakih wanted a universal concept for Nu Sanctuary, a place in Town Square where people can eat, drink, smoke and dance together, with no boundaries. The lounge also reflects Fakih’s passion for surrealism, with the bar giving birth to a tree (of life and knowledge), the main room being split into heaven and hell, and the dining room displaying a representation of the Last Supper featuring the icons of the world’s major religions.
“When you go to the Strip, when you go to the clubs, you’ve got to act how everybody else acts,” Fakih says. “But when you come here, act like you’re home.”
Wanting to reconnect with his Middle Eastern roots, Fakih launched Laziza Hookah Lounge on Eastern Avenue just south of Interstate 215 in October, and also partnered in Harem Hookah at Crazy Horse III for those who enjoy a different type of nightlife.
At the center of it all, though, remains the hookah. His next creation will be a hookah made out of fruit, with a watermelon serving as the base, an apple as the bowl and a bamboo stem connecting the two. He even plans on making the herbs in-house to create a totally natural smoking experience.