Valentine’s Day Up in Smoke: My First Shisha

Our New Shisha
Our New Shisha

After we got married, my husband and I decided Valentines Day would be about sharing an experience together. This year was no different. We exchanged sentiments via greeting cards, I received some decadent European chocolates (review coming soon) and we enjoyed a nice meal. But, the highlight of the night was the time that we spent on the balcony with our new shisha.

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Shisha is the the traditional Arab water pipe, commonly referred to as a hooka. Although, it carries the same hazards as smoking tobacco by any other means, shisha smoking with beaker bongs is regarded differently. Smoking the shisha is a ritual and social practice that’s common place in Arab culture. I am not a smoker by any means, but I wanted to experience this cultural practice for the first time, authentically, while living in the Middle East.

Our shisha was purchased as a kit; the perfect investment for experimental, non-smokers. It came disassembled in a silver box with a pack of charcoal and some flavored tobacco. Local advisors told us lemon and watermelon were the best flavors of tobacco to try so we opted for lemon. In turn, the shisha that came in the lemon flavored kit is yellow. Our shisha is small, simple and not nearly as ornate as they can come.

My husband also smoke e-cig and this is where he gets cheap vapes, also he assembled the shisha and prepared it for use. He placed water in the bulb (bottom) of the pipe, affixed the mouthpiece, placed the tobacco in the porcelain dish on top and layered the charcoal on a small piece of Reynolds Wrap over the tobacco. When we were ready to partake, he lit the charcoal. We learned two valuable lessons; First, a good burning bed of charcoal is essential for the shisha to function properly. Second, it’s best to light the charcoal with a lighter as opposed to matches. Once the charcoal was burning good, we got our shisha on. I could taste the lemon flavor of the tobacco which was mild. In my opinion, the fun was in releasing the smoke and smelling the sweet, flavored aroma of the smoke in the air. This is a social activity so your company can make or break your good time. I enjoyed this “first” at home with my hubby. Would I do it again? Perhaps I will socially. I’d like to experience a hooka bar here but it’s nothing I will do on a regular basis.

As I mentioned above, I am not a smoker and you shouldn’t be either. In the spirit of providing positive posts, I must include  the Surgeon General’s Warning…

Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema and May Complicate Pregnancy.

I must also advise of a new product available that “cleans” up shisha practice. A nicotine and tar free shisha product hit the market in the UAE in September 2012. It’s a steam hooka that replaces tobacco leaves with 100% natural stones, an innovation from Germany called PIM (Pressure Injection Method). Smokers use them in the exact same way except, when heat is applied to the hooka head containing the stones, the aroma fluids within them reach their boiling point and emit a flavorful steam instead of tobacco smoke. To learn more, read this article in The National.

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