The Shisha: The Middle Eastern Water Pipe
More commonly known as Shisha in Western countries, the Hookah is a water pipe which for a very long time was a daily ritual like the coffee in the morning. Now, smoking bans seem to be a halt for cafes in which the Hookah is equal to conversation and comfort.
The build of a shisha is simple, the smoke of burning tobacco gets passed through a body of water as to purify and cool the smoke and therefore give it a more refined taste. Its origin is not fully known although mostly ascribed to a Persian physician.
Shisha: Smoking as a form of socializing
The shisha has many names, one of them “Nargile” (which means ‘coconut’) indicates that it once has been fashioned out of a coconut, whilst another name is ‘lula’ which simply stands for ‘pipe’.
Quite of few of modern shishas have two or more mouthpieces, especially in Western tradition, a whole group sits around one Hookah and smokes together. Other traditions involve the smoking and then laying the mouthpiece down for the next to inhale. It is – indeed – a very social tradition and usually involved groups of people. Many coffee shops have shishas although in quite a few countries the stricter smoking bans have resulted in the dwindling of this tradition in public spaces.
The interesting thing about the use of the shisha is the occasional adding of juice in the water or mint leaves or pieces of fruit to enhance the taste. The tobacco used also differs widely from tobacco used in cigarettes and consists mostly of foreign tobaccos, molasses (usually different types of honey) and dried fruit for aroma.
Not only for this but also for the relaxed and patient manner in which hookahs are smoked, many consider it superior to cigarettes.
Although in a normal Hookah session one inhales a lot more smoke than during a cigarette, there have been studies that indicate that the smoke of the shisha is not as dangerous as that of the cigarette. The risk of cancer therefore is higher for cigarette smokers.
However, that doesn’t mean that smoking shisha is not dangerous for one’s health, the same studies have shown that shisha smokers have a higher risk for cancer than non-smokers, a daily or even weekly intake therefore is not encouraged.