The hookah or shisha, which is part and parcel of Eastern culture, has been used for pleasure throughout the ages. A hose called a “marpuc” is used to inhale the smoke of the tobacco, on which there is a small fire, and the smoke is filtered through a reservoir of water. It is believed that the sight and sound produced as water bubbles up is rehabilitating. This is the easiest way for people who like metaphysics to embark on a trip to the stars. The journey of the spirit away from the body and the eventual union of spirit and body is only one of the pleasures of the hookah.
Though it originated in the Middle East 400 years ago, the hookah is a tobacco pipe with a long tube that cools smoke by drawing it through water. First, the tobacco is put on a small, ventilated plate on the narghile, then burning pieces of charcoal are placed on top. Sucking on the shisha pipe then draws smoke down into the water-filled bowl and out again into the mouth.
Connoisseurs describe it as a “sweet” smoking sensation because the nicotine is taken out by the water. Traditionally, flavored tobacco – consisting of dried fruit pulp mixed with tobacco leaves – is used.
With the shisha, you can choose from an oriental orchard of flavors. Shisha smokers can choose from a variety of flavors, including apple, apricot, strawberry, mixed fruit and mint. There is, it has to be stressed, no outlawed substance inside the hookah tobacco. Shisha adepts consider the elaborate preparation and total attention required part of its relaxing effect. Shisha, they say, is for contemplation, not stimulation. Decor notes for your hookah smoking area: go with big pillows, oriental rugs and lots of couches to create that Night at the Casbah motif.