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Nargile (aka Hookahs)

 
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:20 pm    Post subject: Nargile (aka Hookahs) Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
Hass, a brilliant post and terrific pics. Although very common outside this country, we are very naive about the many ways people enjoy their spiritual imbibing and smoking in other parts of the world.

Question: I see the what appears to be coals on top of the tobacco which of course leads to the smoke. What kind of coals are used? And does the hookah fit over this burning pot?


So, at Jimbo's request, I will take an inch and turn it into a mile.

The nargile (Turkish spelling), nargila/nargileh/arguileh/arghilé/etc (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine), shisha (Egypt and North Africa, Persian gulf), hookah (India + the Anglosphere), qalyan/ghalyoon/ghelyoon/kalyan (Iran, Russia and Caucasus), and myriad other names for the same thing, is a smoking device as old as tobacco itself, if not older, with the very first reference to it coming from a Persian poem dating from the first years of the 16th century, before any documented tobacco smoking in Iran. From Iran it spread to the culturally Persian Mughal court of India, where, centuries later, the British discovered it. From Iran westward it spread to the similarly Persianate Ottoman court. It was there that the device evolved into the form familiar today, and was then spread to its various territories, including most of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Greece and the Balkans.

Today "hookah" is popular with youth throughout the world, thanks largely to Arab emigrants who have taken it with them. There is now a plethora of candy-flavored, washed tobaccos, which are analogous to cotton candy compared to black licorice, and which draw in ever more people.

I myself like some of the more "natural" flavored tobaccos, as well as many unflavored tobaccos produced specifically for the nargile. So, let's get into that.

In my part of the Middle East (Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey), there are two principal types of tobacco, which in Arabic are called mu'assal, meaning "honeyed" and 'ajami, literally meaning "Persian." The former is cut into small pieces, not dissimilar to ribbon cut pipe tobacco, and is then mixed with honey, glycerine, or other humectants/sweeteners, and optionally flavorings and dyes. The more popular tobaccos are all of the flavored mu'assal variety. There does, however, remain a decent variety of unflavored mu'assal, sometimes referred to (not by Arabs, etc) as "black leaf" since the tobacco is literally black or coffee-brown due to curing and fermenting. Flavored mu'assal is always smoked in a deeply concave bowl, covered tightly with aluminum foil with holes poked through (or a screen of some sort), upon which the charcoal is placed, like this:



Outside the Middle East, that's just about what everyone smokes, and even in the Eastern Med countries, it's by FAR the most popular thing to smoke (apart from cigarettes) by the under-50 crowd. Flavors range from the ever popular "double apple" (really an apple + anise combo) to absurd shit like "blue raspberry jolly rancher" and "mojito flavor". I like the more conservative ones like the aforementioned apple, melon, strawberry, etc. However, flavored mu'assal was only invented in the 1980s. For most of the 20th century, unflavored was the only wet, sweetened tobacco available. This is either smoked just like the flavored stuff (my preference), or with the coals straight on, like this:

.

Popular brands include Salloum as well as various lines made by Nakhla, one of the giants in the industry, including Zaghloul, Khan al Khalili, Qass Super, and Batta. All of these are broadly similar, but some are more robust, some more sour, some smokier, some richer, etc. Salloum is probably the sweetest and most complex, with Khan al Khalili by Nakhla being the most full-bodied, as it were. Zaghloul is one of the most ubiquitous - it's a very dry, slightly sour smoke, which has an acrid note on its own, but really works well as a mixer. In Egypt and North Africa, unflavored Mu'assal is still very, very popular.

But, for hundreds of years, in most of the Ottoman world, there was only one kind of nargile tobacco: ajami, also known by the names tonbaak (Persian) and tömbeki (Turkish). This is tobacco light in color, in a very pure form, nothing but cured leaf, and I suspect usually of the "Turkish/yenice/oriental" variety. In the Arab world this takes two main forms - whole leaves or very large pieces of leaves, which are wrapped very tightly around a flat bowl into a sort of cylinder, or smaller shreds, again similar to ribbon cut, which are compacted and piled on top of the bowl. In all cases, the tobacco is first soaked in water and squeezed dry, and charcoal is placed directly on top. Here's a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_okLsxrJKl8

And here's what it looks like when prepared with the charcoal on:



Personally, this isn't my favorite. It's really strong (ass-kick of nicotine), and the flavor is like a slightly sour cigar...but filtered through water, so not quite as dry.

The Iranian style that I posted earlier is not done quite the same way - instead it's meant to go in a very deep bowl, piled loosely in about halfway up the bowl, with the charcoals on top, held in by the height of the bowl. This is different than the Iranian tobacco I've had in Lebanon - it has a richer flavor and is more enjoyable. It's certainly as strong though, deep puffs are right out!

Jimbo asked about the coals and a few other things, so here we go.

The hookah/nargile/shisha/etc, is the entire pipe, such as this:



consisting of, from top to bottom: the bowl or head, tray for falling ash, the main stem/body/shaft/shank, and the glass vase/base. The main body has an inner stem which sticks down an inch or so into the water of the base. The hose of course is for breathing in the smoke. Optionally, a wind cover can be added to 1. prevent wind from knocking ash and sparks around from the coals when outdoors, and 2. to conserve heat from dying coals:



The shaft can be anything from wood to steel to aluminum to brass. The one pictured above is brass. The base is typically glass, but can also be ceramic or metal, as seen here:



Bowls can be glazed stoneware or unglazed terra-cotta, with the latter the most traditional and my favorite. There are more options to discuss for bowls but it's not worth it for an overview such as this. Hoses can be made of leather wrapped around a metal coil, or any number of synthetic, washable materials such as vinyl or silicone. Leather hoses are traditional and nicer, and they also allegedly absorb various impurities from the smoke*. However, leather hoses also absorb flavor, so for very strong, distinctive flavors, washable synthetic hoses have an advantage.

As for the charcoals, most crummy hookah bars in the US use instant-light ultra-processed charcoal, which is vile stuff, soaked in lighter fluid and full of chemicals which taint the flavor of the smoke. The traditional charcoal in the Middle East is simply bulk wood charcoal, made from the branches of lemon and orange trees, which look simply like carbonized tree branches, no more than an inch or so thick. These are much like bulk wood charcoal for grilling - they burn very hot and very quick. They smell the worst when lighting, but they have the least taste when fully lit. In the Middle East, where an attendant comes by to adjust your coals every 5-10 minutes, they're perfect. At home, not so much.

In the last 5+ years, most aficionados use charcoal made from coconut husks for home use. They're fairly environmentally friendly, have little to no taste when lit, and burn very consistently. They tend to come in flattened cubes of about 1x1x.5 inches or so, and at that size burn for over an hour. There are an astonishing number of brands of coconut charcoal, representing the explosion in hookah smoking around the world, with some being much better than others in terms of performance and smell. There are other types of charcoal used too, but again, it's not worth getting into.

*I mention "smoke" - when foil is used, you are not burning the tobacco at all, but rather vaporizing the liquid in the wet tobacco. When a bowl is done and the foil removed, what's left is a dried out cake of tobacco, but not ashes.


Anyway, I hope that's a good overview!
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought I'd use the second post to show off my stuff, I mean, educate you on various styles of naragil (Arabic plural of nargile)



Lebanese pipes, or at least pipes I acquired in Lebanon (the far left and far right might have been made in Syria). Given that my second home is Beirut, I am very, very partial to Lebanese pipes. The middle 2 are the most "typically" Lebanese, being made of stainless steel, quite straight and slender, and very light. They're the kind found most often at cafes and restaurants in Lebanon, and in fact the swirly-looking one was bought from a cafe in Beirut. You'll notice that three of these have a small valve opposite to where the hose is inserted - this is a 1-way valve that opens when you blow into the hose in order to release stale or overheated smoke. While commonplace now, this valve is an innovation of the last couple decades and by no means ubiquitous even on modern pipes.


Next, Turkish pipes...



Turkish pipes. I am 1/16th Turkish, but more than that, Turkish pipes are special in the nargile world. First of all, they are closest to the original design that got spread through the Middle East, since the nargile was "modernized" in Turkey. (Previous iterations, such as those from Iran or India were made of wood or even coconut shell - nargile actually comes from the Persian word for coconut). Secondly, with very few exceptions, they are made of seriously freakin' solid brass, and quite often VERY highly decorated. These pipes are all handmade, cast brass, and will last forever. They're sort of the exact opposite of the Lebanese pipes, and while I don't have the same sentimental attachment (despite having been to Turkey a few times, all of these were mail-ordered from Turkey), these are even more awesome.

Egyptian pipes are probably the most common these days thanks to their cheap manufacture and mass production, but I don't really like them and don't own any. If you see a hookah being sold anywhere in the West and even in the Arab world, the chances are high that it's either Egyptian or Chinese (which are for the most part so shitty they don't get their own paragraph)

Syrian pipes are right now the most desirable, since production has stopped due to the civil war. They are also often made of brass and quite ornate, though not to the same degree or of the same heft of Turkish pipes. I don't have any of them either, but I rather like them. This is my friend's:




My Lebanese hoses:



Leather wrapped around steel coil, with fairly basic wooden handles. Apart from the handle length, this is what pretty much every single cafe in Lebanon uses (cafes use hoses with shorter handles)


Turkish hoses:



These match the heft and ornateness of the Turkish pipes. The handles are a good 30"+ long, and the overall length is about 92". These made from specifically goat leather, and indeed smell quite goaty when new (don't worry, that fades). The handles are hand stitched from carpet and upholstery, and the wooden components are hand-lathed dogwood. Even the acrylic mouthpiece is lined with a dogwood tube. These are VERY high quality hoses, and aren't cheap, but are worth every penny.


As a bonus, since the hoses reside in my "vice closet", here's my bar (not shown, my collection of 14 single malts):
[img]http://i1322.photobucket.com/albums...

/u571/HassouniFND/IMG_8896_zpsa2362000.jpg[/img]

You'll notice it's mostly rum! Very Happy
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Capn Jimbo
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me be the first...


To acknowledge the tremendous amount of work put into posting this long and very informative piece. Thanks to Hass for an amazing post.

Just for fun I checked in with Mr. Google and found there were really quite a few hookah bars in south Florida. Many. Some like the "Off the Hookah" chain of locations, are extremely expensive, with belly dancers, and numerous parties of people who spend hundreds of dollars for dinner, entertainment and hookah setups at their table. Attendees are often in costume. This fits in with the spectacle, look-at-me crowd in South Beach style.

OTOH, there seem to be quite a few others from showbar types to more ordinary businesses. I suspect the glitzy types are less than authentic.





There's another difference between smoking a cigar or pipe here. I was interested to learn that the tobacco is very, very moist - soaked even - and it is not burned as much as it is vaporized, with the vapors being drawn down the hookah, and then which bubble through the water, then delivered via flexible tubing to the smoker. Some of these devices are set up for even four smokers, each with their own tubing.

I learned that the hookah has some common components: on top is the bowl for the tobacco and coals, sometimes with a perforated lid/windscreen for outdoor smoking; a plate to catch the ashes; a tower conducting the vapor down to a water chamber with a purge valve to blow out old smoke; and either a hose (or hoses) ending with a mouthpiece.

Interestingly it seems what most of us call a hookah - with it's ornate tower and multiple, snaking hoses - is technically not one! Apparently historically a "hookah" had a non-flexible, angled straight tube or stem like a huge pipe. True, Hass?


Last, but certainly not least...

About the "smoke". This was really interesting. With pipes or cigars the tobacco is literally burnt, so the smoker not only is exposed to the tobacco but also the products of combustion. OTOH the Wiki notes:

Quote:
"The chemical compositions of cigarette smoke and hookah smoke are different, however, as the workings of the charcoal in the modern hookah causes the tobacco mixture to be heated to a lower temperature, as opposed to the higher temperature in a cigarette where the tobacco is directly burnt"


The Wiki states that the "sisha" (tobacco) can either be burnt (combustion) to of course create smoke - or - create a tobacco/water vapor depending on the position of the hot charcoal (near rather than on the tobacco). The latter eliminates or minimizes products of combustion.

Is it safer? Common sense would say a resounding "maybe". Hass, thanks for the education.




*******
Citation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hookah
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jimbo, I won't quote your post but will respond to it point by point.

Yeah, the proliferation of "hookah bars" in the US is recent - definitely within the last 10 years. Even then, it's probably only the last 5 that it's become common to see them outside the Arab community and run by non-Arabs.

Needless to say Jimbo, what you saw is not authentic in any way. In the Arab world and to a lesser extent Turkey, if one wants to smoke a nargile (or the verb I coined, "nargle"), one just goes to a cafe. In Lebanon, every, and I do mean every, non-Western style coffee shop has nargile and the majority of people are smoking. This goes for most Lebanese restaurants too and even a handful of Western style cafés. In places like Jordan and the Gulf countries and Turkey, it's not as ubiquitous, but the venues are still nothing more than cafes where one can sit, have a drink (outside Lebanon and Turkey, usually non-alcoholic), socialize, play backgammon or card games, have a light meal, etc. They're never referred to as "hookah bars," it's just assumed.


As for the differences between a pipe or cigar, yes, the tobacco is moist, which I touched on in the first post. In the case of 'ajami or tonbaak/tömbeki, the dry cured leaves are soaked in water for ~ minutes before being squeezed dry and packed on the bowl (though the tobacco is still damp). In the more commonly smoked mu'assal, the tobacco is wetted by glycerine, honey, etc in the manufacturing process, and is not just wet but quite sticky too! The most common retail package for that is the 250g carton, and it'd be fair to say most of that weight is liquid.

As for a four-smoker nargile: yes it's true multi-smoker pipes exist, with more than one hose, they're kind of silly. Firstly only one hose can operate a time, because of vacuum and air pressure and all that jazz. Secondly, sharing with 3 other person gets annoying because that means about 10 minutes between puffs - typically, when I entertain at home, my rule is 3 people per pipe maximum but 2 per pipe preferable. And with just one other person, you might as well pass the hose back and forth, since only one can operate at a time. In the Middle East, by the way, sharing is not very common, most people order their own, which is evident in every cafe, with each person puffing on their own pipe:

(not my photo but a cool one anyway)

As for what a hookah is and is not, the straight hose variant is just an archaic form, still sometimes used in Iran eastward, and in really cheap addicts-only variants (almost the equivalent of a crack pipe!)


(a nice, antique Iranian form, incidentally, with a wooden body)

(the "goza", an Egyptian name for the really really basic ones, incidentally made from a coconut [nargil in Persian])

These are not to be confused with the "chibouk" or in Turkish, çubuk, which is a dry tobacco pipe with a stem several feet long, which incidentally was pretty much entirely replaced by the nargile after a century or two.

Finally, as for the smoke. Yes, it's quite true that when foil or a screen is used, the tobacco is emphatically not burnt. I sadly don't have a picture of my own, but when the session is over, what's left in the bowl is a desiccated puck of tobacco, as opposed to a pile of ashes. Mu'assal (not shisha! Calling the tobacco shisha is a creation of internet-based Americans who got the terminology wrong and ran rampant. Shisha is an alternative name for the entire pipe, and originally referred to one built around a glass base [shisheh = "glass" in Persian)] is mostly liquid, so yes, I'd say the "smoke" is mostly just vapor, and it is probably not as harmful as a cigar or cigarette. Anecdotally, I can smoke a nargile for an hour and feel fine, but a full hour of a cigar isn't too great.

Some mu'assal (the unflavored kind) is smoked without foil or a screen, with the coals straight on, and all 'ajami is smoked like that. In this case there is certainly burning as well, though I would say there is also a bit of vaporization as well, because the moisture prohibits heavy combustion. When a session of these is done, the result is a mixture of ash and carbonized tobacco. Smoking without foil is definitely much closer to a cigar, if the cigar smoke were run through water. By the way, water filtering anything out is more likely than not a myth, but it does certainly cool the smoke down, which reduces its destructive power on the lungs and throat. As you say, it "may be" safer. I have a feeling it must be, though still not harmless.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff, love it...


Regular posters know that Sue Sea and I have a huge respect for history and tradition, as should be evident as the basis of only the Project, but the "styles" and their development as rum transited throughout the Caribbean.

Obviously we have equal respect if not fascination with all traditional spirits, music and practices. So here's today's naive question...

If a reader wanted to try "nargling", and wanted an authentic and traditional experience: How would they find and evaluate their local businesses that might offer a good and traditional experience? Would they be listed under "hookah bars" or another local search term? If the reader called them first, what questions would they ask? And if they then visited, what should they look for and/or avoid?
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
Great stuff, love it...


Regular posters know that Sue Sea and I have a huge respect for history and tradition, as should be evident as the basis of only the Project, but the "styles" and their development as rum transited throughout the Caribbean.

Obviously we have equal respect if not fascination with all traditional spirits, music and practices. So here's today's naive question...

If a reader wanted to try "nargling", and wanted an authentic and traditional experience: How would they find and evaluate their local businesses that might offer a good and traditional experience? Would they be listed under "hookah bars" or another local search term? If the reader called them first, what questions would they ask? And if they then visited, what should they look for and/or avoid?


This is a very good question, and not especially easy to answer, but here are some indicators that a place is decent:


    - First off, they might be under "hookah/shisha bar/lounge/cafe" or they might even be in the outdoor section of a Lebanese or other Middle Eastern restaurant (I assume in South Florida a lot of places have outdoor sections?)

    - They use natural coals, whether wood or coconut cubes. If they use quick-lights, then forget it. This will eliminate 90% of places right off the bat. This to me is the most important, since bad coals will ruin an otherwise perfect set up.

    - They use Nakhla brand tobacco, or at a last gasp, Al-Fakher brand. Places that use anything else (I'm looking at you StarBuzz [really]) will almost certainly offer modern bullshit that might as well be like smoking a sugary cocktail. Nakhla is an old Egyptian company that has been in the business longer than anyone and whose products are the most traditional and consistently good in the flavored tobacco game. Many of the in-your-face modern places use Starbuzz or other more recent, and frankly awful, brands of candy-like tobacco. Avoid.

    - They offer Zaghloul or Salloum (two varieties of unflavored mu'assal, the former made by Nakhla) - if they do, then you know old-school Arabs go there and it can't be that bad.

    - On that note, the clientele. This is not a sure indicator, but if you see Middle Eastern people let's say...over 40, that holds promise.

    - Harder to tell for the uninitiated: they don't use Chinese pipes. A quick google image search will pull up a plethora of pictures, but generally anything overly shiny, or made of colored metal (even gunmetal colored) is likely to be Chinese. A decent place should use Egyptian pipes (or in the case of at least one place in California, Turkish!)

    - Less important: leather hoses are used as opposed to vinyl or silicone or anything else. The main length of a leather hose will look like plain, beige leather. This is not a big deal, but leather is of course more traditional and nicer.

    - Irrelevant to the quality of the smoke, but not the atmosphere: no DJ, no super loud music. A TV playing Arabic music videos or Al-Jazeera is quite acceptable.



If I were to call, I'd ask if they have natural coals, and what brand of tobacco they use. The rest is far less important.

For flavored stuff like most Nakhla, the end result should be quite a thick smoke with lots of volume, and a strong flavor without being harsh. If it's weak add coals or move the coals off the edge of the bowl towards the center. If harsh, blow the old smoke out or move the coals towards the edge. Worst comes to worst, ask your nargile attendant to fix it. With the flavored stuff, it's normal to inhale deeply. For unflavored, the smoke is much thinner and usually harsher, and is smoked more like a cigar.


PS: If a place has Nakhla, "Double Apple" flavor is the single most dominating flavor in the world of nargile tobacco and probably accounts for 50% of orders in a given place. Other good Nakhla flavors are "Sweet Melon," orange, mint, and several others. A really good combination is a mix of Double Apple + Zaghloul, the unflavored variety. A 50/50 mix is FANTASTIC!

PPS: A commercial establishment will always give you a wrapped, sanitary plastic mouth tip, which you insert into the mouthpiece of the hose. Use this! Not only is it sanitary, but I also prefer using a tip a lot of the time as many mouthpieces can be bulky and awkward to smoke from.
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da'rum
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff Hassouni. I tried a few flavoured Tabaks that my friend brought back with him from Turkey along with his authentic sheesha (previously referred to by me as a 'hooker' :/ ) . I have to say I wasn't a fan. We couldn't find any 'straight' or molasses/honey cased tobacco so I brought some pipe tobacco around that was cased in honey and flavoured with rum and we smoked that. It was much more enjoyable a nice tasting smoke with body. I still prefer my style of pipe but the sheesha was also definitely enjoyable.

Anyway great informative thread with some nice pictures as well.

Cheers
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Hassouni
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 7:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

da'rum wrote:
Great stuff Hassouni. I tried a few flavoured Tabaks that my friend brought back with him from Turkey along with his authentic sheesha (previously referred to by me as a 'hooker' :/ ) . I have to say I wasn't a fan. We couldn't find any 'straight' or molasses/honey cased tobacco so I brought some pipe tobacco around that was cased in honey and flavoured with rum and we smoked that. It was much more enjoyable a nice tasting smoke with body. I still prefer my style of pipe but the sheesha was also definitely enjoyable.

Anyway great informative thread with some nice pictures as well.

Cheers


Unfortunately, despite the reputation for plain tobacco, most Turkish flavored tobacco made specially for the nargile is not very good. However, tömbeki (the plain leaf wrapped around the bowl) is still very common there.

What some people in the West do is experiment with whole leaf or ribbon cut plain cured tobacco, and cook it with some honey, etc, so that they have their own line of unflavored moist tobacco, using probably a much higher grade of leaf than the manufacturers. I haven't done this myself, but a couple friends have.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 7:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jimbo, I'm doing a quick Yelp search of Ft Lauderdale, and these appear to be the more traditional places:

http://shishkagrill.com/ (appears they serve Nakha, not sure about the charcoal) - bonus, legit looking Lebanese menu

http://www.yelp.com/biz/kan-zaman-hookah-cafe-plantation I like the decor, they might have coconut coals too. It appears to be a big Arab party place, but I'm sure in the afternoon/early evening and on weekdays it's laid back.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/al-salam-restaurant-plantation - another restaurant, this appears to be Palestinian, perhaps, from some of the menu items. The Yelp reviews mention hookah, but there are no details. Apparently they have an Arabic grocery store next door selling hookah items too.

There were tons of other places I found, but most seem to be targeting the "bro" crowd
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

More questions for our readers...


After a bit of research it seems that "Hookahs" have become quite the fad, quickly served by what are little more than shiny cheap toys. This is evident by the masses of small websites - literally hundreds - largely selling Chinese and some Egyptian made units that seem poorly made and overpriced. A real fad. We'll know its really bad when Walmart starts selling them, lol.

Of course, this is an insult to the long and great tradition that is almost being mocked with such things as "Starburst" tobacco and "turbo bowls", at least from my uninformed perspective. Ergo...


More Questions:

As preface I found many, many "brands". Some of these were Mya (Chinese); Magdy Zidan, Khaklil Mamoon and Farida (Egypt), Nour (Syrian), El Nefes and Gazi (Turkish). Not to mention literally hundreds of teenage made up names, like "Cosmic Purple". I'm sure "Syrian" does not necessarily mean made in Syria. No doubt counterfeits and misrepresenations are very common. Then there's the issue of number of hoses (which you answered: "one"), but also of size/ht. (petite, small, medium and tall). Next: construction. From cheap metal, to copper, brass, glass, et al. Hose construction. Tobacco bowls.

Ad infinitum. Actually quite offputting and confusing. So the questions:

Let's assume the reader has already followed your advice to experience nargile at an oldtimer's "hookah" cafe - using coconut or natural charcoals, Nahkla tobaccos (flavored) and/or unflavored Zaghloul or Salloum, and non-Chinese pipes. And now this beginner wants to try some "nargling" at modest cost...

1. What size/ht pipe to begin: petite, small, medium or tall?

2. What brands or makes? From what countries? How does one spot junk or counterfeits?

3. What is a reasonable price for a reasonable "starter" pipe that will not disappoint?

4. What tobaccos to try? What accessories?

5. Online shopping - reliable and reasonable sources? Online resources to learn the drill?

Basta! The world awaits your guidance...
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Capn Jimbo wrote:
More questions for our readers...


After a bit of research it seems that "Hookahs" have become quite the fad, quickly served by what are little more than shiny cheap toys. This is evident by the masses of small websites - literally hundreds - largely selling Chinese and some Egyptian made units that seem poorly made and overpriced. A real fad. We'll know its really bad when Walmart starts selling them, lol.

Yep, pretty much.

Of course, this is an insult to the long and great tradition that is almost being mocked with such things as "Starburst" tobacco and "turbo bowls", at least from my uninformed perspective. Ergo...

Also yes

More Questions:

As preface I found many, many "brands". Some of these were Mya (Chinese); Magdy Zidan, Khaklil Mamoon and Farida (Egypt), Nour (Syrian), El Nefes and Gazi (Turkish). Not to mention literally hundreds of teenage made up names, like "Cosmic Purple". I'm sure "Syrian" does not necessarily mean made in Syria. No doubt counterfeits and misrepresenations are very common. Then there's the issue of number of hoses (which you answered: "one"), but also of size/ht. (petite, small, medium and tall). Next: construction. From cheap metal, to copper, brass, glass, et al. Hose construction. Tobacco bowls.

All of those named brands are fine, although El Nefes is sort of impostor Turkish, or Turkish for bros (Gazi is an El Nefes model). Syrian does actually mean made in Syria, though not the Chinese are copying the Syrian style. Mya despite being Chinese is very high quality and quite respected (it's actually a Lebanese company that is just manufactured in China, but of quality materials and to very tight specs)

Ad infinitum. Actually quite offputting and confusing. So the questions:

Let's assume the reader has already followed your advice to experience nargile at an oldtimer's "hookah" cafe - using coconut or natural charcoals, Nahkla tobaccos (flavored) and/or unflavored Zaghloul or Salloum, and non-Chinese pipes. And now this beginner wants to try some "nargling" at modest cost...

1. What size/ht pipe to begin: petite, small, medium or tall? 24-27" or so is a good size to start with, and convenient to set up and clean.

2. What brands or makes? From what countries? How does one spot junk or counterfeits? I'm partial to Lebanese and Turkish pipes, as you saw in my first posts. Lebanese are mostly unbranded and not sold overseas. As for Turkish, the cream of the crop is Elmas. But besides that, as I said any of the brands you mentioned above is fine (just don't get El Nefes, they piss me off). Unfortunately spotting counterfeits comes with experience, having seen plenty of the real thing.


3. What is a reasonable price for a reasonable "starter" pipe that will not disappoint? Unfortunately prices are really inflated outside the Middle East. $60-80 will get you a decent starter pipe that will sever you well.

4. What tobaccos to try? What accessories? As far as easily available goes, Nakhla. It's ubiquitous, cheap, and for once that's not a bad thing. Zaghloul, Zaghloul Light, Khan el Khalili, Kass Super, and Bata are their unflavored varieties. Zaghloul is fairly common in the States, the rest less so. For flavors, Two Apples (AKA "double apple") is the standard-bearer for all flavored tobacco. If you can find it sold in a can instead of a box, get the can. Other quality flavors: Sweet Melon (cantaloupe flavor), and nearly everything else (though sweet melon is probably a class above). If you find Salloum, get that. There are many other brands that are fairly respected in the Middle East, but they're not as consistent or easy to find as Nakhla.** As far as accessories, I wouldn't even know where to start, the options are endless.

5. Online shopping - reliable and reasonable sources? Online resources to learn the drill? For purchases:
www.Hookah-shisha.com
www.5starhookah.com
www.ultimatehookah.com
www.hookah1.com

For learning, www.hookahforum.com where I'm a very active member. There are two other big forums that I'm also part of, but one is frequented largely by assholes, the other by idiots.


Basta! The world awaits your guidance...


**I just remembered after I wrote all this out that hookah1.com carries all sorts of stuff that nobody else does - quality stuff at very reasonable prices. Namely, Desi Murli, which is sort of their house brand tobacco, directly imported from India - which is strong, very tobacco-y, and spicy. It comes in unflavored and myriad exotic flavor options. Try the Plain, Khus and Rooh Afza to start, but all their stuff is good. This smokes like normal flavored tobacco, but is STRONG, ass-kicking stuff. They also sell Afzal, which is the biggest band in India - their fruit flavors suck but their non-fruit stuff is really quite good. hookah1 also sells the full line of Salloum products. I don't buy stuff online very much, but this site is one of the exceptions.
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da'rum
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Joined: 29 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A picture of the old school long pipes from Turkey


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