Inter Continental


shisha pipe smoking pipe
Category: Desert

In biblical times, Shi’sha was the father of two members of  King Solomon’s court—Elihorep and Ahijah.  But that is not what this story is about.

 American Indians smoked the peace pipe when they parleyed with the U.S. infantry during frontier times…still not what this story is all about—but getting close.

Approximately a thousand years ago, somewhere in the north western provinces of India, people used coconut shells and tube with a head attached to it as a device for smoking.

This contrivance, later called hookah after evolving into something from wood, soon found its way into the Persian Empire and to what is now Iran where it was named  shisheh meaning glass as what this water pipe has become to be made of—now that hit the spot!

Wealthy Persians gave hookah the appearance they now have. When it reached Turkey some 500 years ago, hookah became very popular among the elite and intellectuals that designs became much more intricate with paintings and mosaics added for elegance. It was around this time when hookah smoking also became an artful skill.

The ‘how’ part

The art of shisha or hookah shisha smoking starts with filling the bottom of the jar with water sufficient enough to sink a short portion of the  tightly sealed tube.

Tobacco is placed in the small bowl at the top of the hookah and a foil  with a hot charcoal is placed on top of it.

When one draws in through the hose, air enters through the charcoal and into the tobacco bowl which then produces smoke from the vaporised tobacco that, in turn passes through the tube that comes through the water, bubbling, and on to the upper part of the jar where  the hose is hooked.

According to Mayo Clinic, smoking a shisha pipe or smoking pipes is nowhere less of a health risk as smoking cigarettes.

Note that a shisha session typically lasts more than 40 minutes, and consists of up to 200 inhalations. In an hour-long smoking session therefore, users consume about 100 to 200 times the smoke of a single cigarette; in a 45-minute smoking session a typical smoker would inhale 1.7 times the nicotine of a single cigarette.

Fortunately, tobacco-free shisha products, such as those made from herbs among others have been developed to minimise harm to the smoker.

Today, shisha bars can be found in almost all parts of the world where people smoke the shisha pipe to socialize, discuss current events and politics, and even close business deals, that is, in the case of the Middle East.

Young adults go to shisha bars because they’re still legally not allowed alcohol; adults go there with their laptops to unwind and check their social network account; in most Arab countries, middle-aged men can be seen in shisha bars with smoking pipes while playing video games.

For all its worth, why smoke sisha at all when you can have cigarettes instead? Well, as one shisha aficionado put it, “cigarettes is for fast-paced; shisha is when you just want to really relax.”

Today, a trip planner going on an adventure travel in the Gulf, would almost certainly include a shisha session on  his itinerary of fun activities.   

(By Jojo Dass)

Photo by Adrian Scottow (Flickr)