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What Is A Hookah And How Do You Smoke One?

The secondhand dangers of cigarette smoke have pushed us into a golden age of smoking alternatives and all sorts of inhaling trends.

Whether you’re new to the world of smoke shops or a seasoned veteran, the immense diversity of products and related trends is sure to house smoking apparatuses that are completely alien to you.

The hookah is one blossoming niche smoking practice that surely almost everyone has seen, and yet is far from widely understood. The colorful and twisting pipes stand out at any smoke shop, and surely the big “hookah bar” signs have caught your attention when driving by, but what exactly is a hookah? How do you smoke from one? What makes it so special, or different from a regular vape?

Let’s take a look at each of these questions.

What Is A Hookah?

The short answer: a smoking apparatus, but you already know that. More specifically, behind all of the ornaments and decorations that often go on a hookah, the functional apparatus can be broken down into a few essential parts.

The bowl is where the burning happens. It holds your hookah tobacco, or your hookah shisha, and will feed the smoke down into the rest of the hookah. A clay bowl is the best option to best conduct heat, ceramic bowls are common, but they don’t do as good of a job with heat conduction.

The body, often referred to as the hookah itself, is the long pipe that draws the smoke down from the bowl into the water dish. These are often made out of brass or plastic, depending on your hookah model.

The water jar, or vase, is connected to the body and is where the filtration takes place. Filling this jar with the correct amount of water is crucial for a good pull, about an inch above where the hookah pipe ends should do the trick.

The hose is a crucial part—if you want to actually smoke, and not just have your apparatus sit around for decoration, that is. The hose comes out of the water chamber and is where you’ll be pulling from. If you’re going to be sharing your hookah with anyone else, it’s important to have mouthpieces to make sure everyone is having a clean, safe experience. The quality of the hose itself is important, as well. Cheap hoses will have metal lining on the inside, and after a couple of months of use, this lining will begin to rust. Smoking out of a rusted hose means pulling rust into your lungs along with the tobacco, which of course, is no good. To avoid this, a good quality silicone hose is the way to go.

Where Does the Hookah Come From?

Unlike some other very modern smoking trends, hookah dates back centuries and is a deeply cultural experience beyond simply consuming tobacco.

The hookah, as we know it today, goes all the way back to 16th century India. At the time, smoking tobacco was a popular practice among the higher classes. This, along with the glass exportation from the British East India Company, would lead to an attempt to purify smoke through water within a glass chamber—birthed the hookah. The hookah quickly became a symbol of high class and was popular among noblemen for precisely this reason.

A century later, the hookah became a practice for everybody at any level in the social hierarchy, this in 17th century Persia. This democratization of the smoking practice also embedded hookah into the service industry, and not just the culture.

Migration of the hookah continued into Turkey during the 18th century where, once again, it served as a symbol for status. Hookah was very popular among members of the high class and even served an important role in hospitality and diplomatic reunions. Hospitality and the hookah became so intertwined that not offering a hookah to your guest could be taken as an insult.

Moving into Egypt a century later, we begin to see hookah take on its now treasured communal role. This is when Mu’Assel first comes into play, which is where we get all of our assorted smoke flavors that we enjoy today. Additionally, hookah became integrated into every level of society. It promoted community and transcended race, class, and gender.

Over these hundreds of years, hookah became a deeper, more intimate part of all of these cultures. It would then migrate to the rest of the world through immigrants originating from these countries. Taking these traditions with them is what brought us hookah today, in every corner of the world.

How do you smoke from a hookah?

Just as you might expect from a practice so deeply rooted in culture and tradition, smoking from a hookah is a process. Setting up your hookah for a session isn’t difficult, but you need to do it correctly and carefully to be able to get the most out of it.

Before you start, throw your coals on the burner. This way, once you’ve got your bowl packed and your foil poked, your coals will be hot and ready to go. You don’t need an HMD, but it does help make sure your coals heat up the bowl evenly. You’ll also want some tongs (unless you’re unreasonably good at handling hot coals with your bare hands).

Once you’ve got those coals on the burner, you’ll need to pack your bowl. There are various different packing methods and countless video tutorials on each one, you can make sure the packing technique you pick goes well with the leaf you’ll be smoking. You can use a dedicated packing fork to pack the shisha into your bowl, or you can just use your hands if you don’t mind getting them a little dirty.

Next, you’ve got to get your foil on your bowl. You can buy pre-cut foils or you can cut your own from aluminum foil tubes. If you do make your own, make sure you’re getting heavy-duty foil. Use two foils if you’re using an HMD to be able to handle the heat. If you’re using coals by themselves, one foil should do the trick. Wrap your foil over the top of the bowl, then using a poker, a toothpick, or a thumbtack, poke some holes. 2-3 concentric circles with a hole in the middle work fine.

Once you’ve got the foil on your bowl and your bowl on your hookah, it’s time to place those coals on top of the foil. Make sure they’re nice and hot, about 10 minutes on the burner should be enough. Place them on the foil for a few minutes before you start pulling to make sure your bowl gets nice and hot and your pulls are great from the beginning.

Hookah, or Shisha, have been around for a very long time, becoming very popular in the Middle East and now in the US. So, What is a Hookah, and how do you smoke one?

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