Sheesh! a

Shisha (sheesha) is the Persian word for what’s known as hookah back in my corner of the Western world. We’re talking water pipes today because smoking out of them is an incredibly popular “pastime” in the UAE. It’s not remotely healthy, but it’s my job to report to those who want to know. I’ve only been to one hookah bar in the U.S. but it’s the exact same thing, only much more widely-available here as you don’t need to go to a specialized establishment. Shisha is served in cafés, restaurants, bars, everywhere. In fact, we’ve gone to many places early in the evening where the pipes are already prepped and lined up- choose your flavor and you’re on your way. Because shisha is a social activity, the pipes are colorful and often ornate. For home use, pipes can be bought from stores on every other corner, which is just what I did. Here’s a pic of the lovely lady I chose:

I actually bought my pipe to serve as a centerpiece on my living room coffee table, a fun addition to my mostly-Ikea decorating. It qualifies as a piece of art and is one of the few authentic items I’ve purchased for my apartment. I also figured it would be put to use in social situations, rendering it multi-functional and worth the valuable space it takes up. I shopped for it with Tunisian a friend who was able to bargain the price down (yay for speaking Arabic) to “almost free,” including all accessories.

Now that I actually own one, I realize that this apparatus is fairly labor-intensive as it requires cleaning after each use with different size tiny brushes. Basically, it’s been used once so far, the day I bought it. But it looks pretty. The main components include:

Base or water jar: fairly self-explanatory- the bottom part that needs to be filled with water (or juice or ice)

Hose: a rubber tube that leads from the base to the user’s mouth

Bowl: the top section that houses the tobacco and charcoal

OK, so you put the water in the base. Using the pan pictured here,

heat up some charcoal (silver rectangles in pan above) with your handy-dandy crème brûlée blowtorch. Next, break up some of the gunk (below), which can contain tobacco or tobacco-free herbs; either way it’s supposedly marinated in molasses or honey with added flavoring and other ingredients that I’m absolutely positive are non-GMO, gluten-free, and completely organic:)

Put the tobacco in the bowl, cover it with foil and punch lots of little holes in it. Use tongs to lay a few pieces of charcoal on top and voilà! Shisha! Relax and enjoy ’til cleanup time. Or just order it tableside. Not good for you, but still good!


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