Traditional hookahs are smoking devices, a type of water pipe, used to smoke straight tobacco or tobacco infused with fruit extract or mixed with herbs. Hookahs originated in India but made their way to the Middle East where it became a tradition. Now they can be found all over the world.
Hookah is the name used for the water pipes used in India. Turkish water pipes are referred to as nargiles. Shisha is the Arabic term associated with smoking water pipes. Traditional hookahs are really designed as works of art. They are handmade and detailed with intricate designs. Modern hookahs come in several different sizes, designs, and made from various materials.
The basic anatomy of a hookah consists of the following parts:
The bowl is where the shisha is placed and it is located at the very top of the hookah. This can be stainless steal, ceramic, Pyrex, porcelain, or clay.
The tray is located directly under the hookah and it is used to catch any loose ash that falls from the burning tobacco or coals.
The Center Piece
The center piece is what connects and holds all the parts together. This could be referred to as the heart of the hookah. This piece is usually made from a metal such as copper, aluminum, brass, or stainless steel.
The vase is the water chamber that holds the water that filters the tobacco smoke before it enters the hose. The water also cools the smoke and prevents it from getting too hot, too quickly. This piece is generally made from glass or acrylic.
The hose is the tube through which the filtered smoke travels just before it is inhaled by the smoker. Plastic or silicone hoses are best. The hose can be made from washable or non-washable materials.
Always eat before smoking hookah
Ryan says the smoke shouldn’t affect your taste buds, but it can squash your appetite. Grab a bite before your smoking session.
Choose your shisha
What is shisha? Simply, it’s the stuff that you smoke. Traditionally, it’s made from tobacco, but it can also consist of herbs or chopped-up fruit. If you’re a purist, choose the tobacco. If you want to ease into it, you might try a fruity tobacco-free variety. At some lounges, including House of Hookah, tobacco is infused with all-natural food-grade fruit flavoring.Let the pros handle the equipment.
Especially if it’s your first time! Packing and lighting the bowl is the purview of the lounge staff, so let them take charge. If you think the coals need to be moved around or a fresh bowl of shisha packed, notify the staff.
Ask for your own mouthpiece
In the US, hookah lounges are required to provide a disposable mouthpiece to each customer. Ryan said to slip on your mouthpiece when it’s your turn, then slip it off before you pass the hose to the next person in your circle.
Smoking a hookah should feel like natural inhalation. Draw in the smoke slowly and lightly, taking breaks in between puffs. You might see the hookah bubbling water as you inhale—here’s what’s happening as you breathe in:
Don’t smoke at the same time as someone else
If the hookah has more than one hose, never pull from it at the same time as someone else. This will make the coals burn too hot, and neither person will get a satisfying pull.
Don’t bogart the hose
It’s OK to take a few pulls when it’s your turn, perhaps two or three. But “take too many consecutive pulls, and you risk burning the tobacco a lot faster,” Ryan said. Even here in the US, “you’re meant to enjoy hookah pretty slowly and casually, not really rushing it at all.”
Try different flavors—and different bowls
As you learn how to smoke hookah, you’ll want to try from a wealth of flavors. Ryan finds that double apple is by far the most popular, though any lounge will have several to choose from. Choose one that you enjoy the smell of, because the smoke will linger in your clothes.
House of Hookah also encourages customers to try another popular variation: smoking from a bowl made of hollowed-out fruit, such as a pineapple, pomegranate, or orange. “It makes the hookah last longer and gives it more smoke and flavor.”
Smoke for about an hour
While a bowl of shisha could burn for up to three hours, Ryan recommends refreshing it every 60–90 minutes. “It’ll start tasting like burnt tobacco … just not quite as fresh.”
Just chill out
Frequent hookah smokers might not experience this, but newbies should be prepared to catch what Ryan calls a “relax-y” buzz. “Nothing intoxicating,” he said, “but you might feel a little mellowed out.”
What to expect your first time
As a beginner, you will most likely find yourself in a popular hookah lounge or cocktail bar your first time. Prepare yourself for at least an hour or two of steady smoking for the most satisfying experience.
To start, you will be given a hookah menu and asked to choose your flavor. After your flavor is chosen, a hookah is placed before you and hot coals are placed at the top of the top on foil. Staff will likely take the first few draws to get it started. Smoker should be individual disposable mouthpieces and a pair coal tweezers to share.
Shisha is best used in social settings. To get the full experience of shisha, it is necessary to smoke the pipe consistently so that the coals and tobacco stay at a proper temperature. This can be quite a challenge for one person to do alone, especially a hookah beginner.
After 20 minutes, the flavor will begin to change and the smoke will become hot. At that time, you can use the tweezers to begin removing coals. When the coals are exhausted, generally after about half an hour, you can request fresh burning coals to refresh the shisha. This can be done once or twice before the shisha is used up.
It is not uncommon for first-time hookah smokers to become light-headed or experience some dizziness. Do not be alarmed. This is not from any sort of intoxication but you might feel a very deep sense of relaxation.