Hookahs: Does "Modern" Mean "Better"? / Part II

When the hookah trend took off in the U.S., entrepreneurs began looking for ways to meet the market demand. Importing traditional hookahs from the Middle East takes a lot of time, patience, connections, and money; therefore, up and coming businesspeople sought alternative suppliers. One enterprising individual, the founder of Sultan Tobacco, decided that the basic hookah could be mass produced in an assembly line manufacturing environment with greater ease than importing the traditional pipes would be. Mike, also keenly aware of the American "on-the-go" mentality, sought to make a hookah that could be transported with ease. And so the Junior, a single hose hookah in a carrying case, the first "modern" hookah, was born.

Although sending the hookah to China for manufacture met the market demand for pipes, and reduced the price for consumers, the modern technology employed in the manufacturing process didn't improve the hookah at all. Instead of improving the hookah experience for enthusiasts, the "modern" hookahs did nothing more than flood the market with thousands of look-alike pipes in boxes.

Thanks to the cheap cost of purchasing a "modern" hookah, they sold like the proverbial hotcakes. We watched this phenomenon with a great deal of interest because unlike others in the business, we refused to jump on the Chinese bandwagon. And we are eternally thankful that we stuck to our guns, for it wasn't long after these modern "marvels" hit the market that we began to see the fallout.

Because modern technology has made these hookahs look perfect, buyers assume that they are every bit as good as they look; however, they quickly learn about just how deceiving appearances can be when it comes to a product's performance and longevity. In order to make international sales more appealing, Chinese factories do everything they can to reduce production costs. We've seen this recently with the
massive recall of toys and other products made in China due to the presence of lead. In terms of hookah production, costs are cut in myriad ways:

  • inferior and/or cheaper metals are used in the manufacture of the shaft
  • the glass is spray painted instead of using colored glass
  • glass designs are spray painted by pre-set machines
  • because hookahs are assembled in a package, replacement parts are almost non-existent

When cheap metals are used, the shafts are spray painted. And this is where we first began to see the problems with the Chinese pipes. Customers came to us looking for a solution to the problem of the paint peeling off the shaft and the resulting rust spots that occur after exposure to the water in the base. Oftentimes, they came to us as a last result because they could find no replacement parts anywhere. Other customers came to us looking for replacement bases after theirs broke or the paint peeled off. But the manufactured hookah does have some good points, too:

  • cheap purchase price
  • uniformity in appearance
  • ease of use
  • convenient to store and travel with

While the initial investment in a visually appealing and conveniently portable Chinese manufactured hookah is low, the costs involved in maintaining it only increase that investment exponentially. Most of the time, people who have purchased the "modern" hookahs end up replacing them with the traditional ones because they can find parts and accessories for them that are unavailable for their technologically "advanced" pipe.

Considering the dangers associated with the possibility of lead contamination (remember that in addition to smoking tobacco, you are smoking the materials used in the pipe itself!), flaking paint and rust spots on shafts, peeling paint on glasses, and the lack of replacement parts are taken into consideration, it's not too hard to see that "modern" may mean cheaper, but it does not necessarily mean "better."

Hookahs: Does "Modern" Mean "Better"? / Part I

"It troubles me that we are so easily pressured by purveyors of technology into permitting so-called "progress" to alter our lives without attempting to control it -- as if technology were an irrepressible force of nature to which we must meekly submit." -- HYMAN G. RICKOVER, quoted in The American Land, 1979.

Technology vs. Tradition

Modern technology is, in countless ways, a double-edged sword. While our gadgets provide us with convenience and short-term pleasure, many of them also imprison and isolate us. Devices that we attach to our heads or plug into our ears may give momentary pleasure and distraction, but they also have the power to isolate us socially and imprison their users in a cell of ignorance. At the university where I teach, students meander through the quad and hallways with various and sundry devices attached to their heads and no social interactions taking place among their peers. Instead of the sound of lively after class discussions of lectures as students move from one class to the next, the loudest noise heard in the halls of academe is often little more than the click-clack of heels on the waxed tiles. Technology has usurped tradition on many university campuses and although students seem to prefer being "plugged in" and "dropped out" of social interaction, the meteoric rise of the hookah trend shows us that appearances can be truly deceiving.

The h
ookah has been Middle Eastern cultural icon for centuries. Visit the oldest parts of any Middle Eastern city, and you will find a qahwa (Arabic for coffee shop). The qahwa is a hub of social activity; it is the place where friends gather to share a cup of tea, a game of cards, backgammon or chess, politics, jokes, and a hookah. As Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winning author, writes in his novel, The Children of Gebelawi (Awlad Haretna in Arabic), the qahwa is the place where the memories of the glorious past meet the hardships of the present and both are shared with friends. Sharing, the very essence of the hookah culture, is a tradition that contributes to the proliferation of hookah lounges across the US. They are places where young and old can unwind from the stress of work, home, and school; reconnect with old friends and meet new ones; and most importantly, once again engage in the traditional act of face-to-face socializing that technology seems to have stymied.

Since hookahs take center stage at the qahwa of the Middle East and the lounges of the West, it is important that we take a look at how technology has impacted them as well. And that discussion will come in Part II.

REVIEW: Exotica Charcoal

If you've been searching for the perfect hookah charcoal and haven't found it yet, let me recommend Exotica Finger Style Charcoal to you!

At long last, 3 Kings has met a true competitor for its market share of natural wood charcoal made for the hookah. 3 Kings, long considered the premier hookah charcoal, has a couple of factors working against it in the US market. First, it is cost prohibitive. 3 Kings is made in Holland and must be imported to the US. To make it worthwhile to bring 3 Kings from Europe, anyone who imports it and wants to make a profit on its sale must bring a large quantity. But the costs associated with importing a large quantity of 3 Kings puts off most importers. This, in turn, leads to the second problem with 3 Kings -- availability. The product is not as readily available as some other hookah coal brands are. And when you're lucky enough to find them, expect to pay through the nose for them. Enter Exotica!

Exotica, the newest finger style hookah charcoal on the market, boasts some unique changes that are sure to improve the hookah experience for all! Exotica's superior quality coal not only offers a revolutionary square shape to prevent to coal from rolling off the head, but it also promises
  • NO odor
  • NO taste
  • NO smoke
  • LESS messy ash
  • NO breakage when heated
  • NO rolling around the bowl
  • LONG LASTING -- each finger lasts at least 1 hour!

At approximately half the price of a box of 3 Kings, we were really excited about trying Exotica and possibly adding it to our line of products. We weren't disappointed with our experience using it; we found it to be everything the manufacturer said it would be. It's not a quick-lighting charcoal, so you will need a constant heat source like a stove and some patience while you wait for it to get start, but your patience will be well rewarded with one of the best smoking sessions you've ever had!

From the first time we used it, we knew that the manufacturer of Exotica had a 5-Star product on his hands. Like all natural coals, it takes a little while to get started. But in the process, there was no stinky sulphur smell like the quick-lights give off, no popping or embers flying around. We did not have to worry about someone bumping into the hookah or moving the coal around the head and causing pieces to fall onto the carpet, tile, or table because Exotica's unique square shape keeps it right where it belongs at all times! There is zero taste interference, no smoke even when it's red hot, and so little ash from the dense fingers that we needed to ash the coals just a couple of times during our 1 1/2 hour smoking session!

Exotica is definitely a coal worth keeping around. It comes in a 1 kilo box -- that's 2.2 pounds, folks! -- and costs approximately $8. When you consider the quantity, length of burn time per coal, and the cost, Exotica wins over 3 Kings every time as the better bang for the buck.

Herbal Shisha: The Wave of the Future

As tobacco prices continue to rise and the list of cities banning smoking increases, hookah enthusiasts and lounge owners alike are seeking alternatives to shisha made from tobacco. And don't forget that with the New Year lurking around the corner, those "I will quit smoking" resolutions loom on the horizon! It's no wonder that the non-tobacco shisha products are quickly gaining a marketshare that few people in the industry expected.

Currently, there are three brands of herbal shisha on the market: Soex , Black Label, and High-Life Smoke. I've tried them all because even though I should be used to tobacco since I smoke cigarettes, something about shisha made with tobacco causes me to have coughing fits every time regardless of brand. A strong desire to avoid coughing while still being able to enjoy hookah prompted me to investigate the herbal products. If you're like me and seeking a tobacco, tar, and nicotine free hookah experience, perhaps this post will help you to make a purchasing decision.


None of the herbal shisha has the name power that Soex does. Made in India by the same company that makes Afzal tobacco molasses, Soex is the industry leader and enjoys immense popularity in Europe where it has a well established fan base. Contrary to urban myth, Soex is not made from sugar beets; its base is sugar cane
bagasse, the pulp left behind after the juice has been extracted.

Soex is my personal favorite of the herbal alternatives. Although moisture levels sometimes vary from one production lot to the next, Soex nails the flavors every time. In addition to the standard fruit choices, Soex makes some fantastic exotic flavors that reflect its Indian roots. Bombay Panmasala, Pan Rasna, Rooh Afza Cool, Cardamom, and Lychee are among those traditional flavors.

If it's thick clouds of smoke and long-lasting flavor that you want, Soex will definitely do the job. I've shared my hookah with plenty of people who had no idea that what they were smoking was not tobacco. They could not tell the difference! The only difference that I note, aside from the appearance of the cut, is the fact that Soex does not send me into coughing fits like tobacco does. I've never experienced a headache from Soex.

Because the cut of Soex is thin, the heat has to be managed more carefully than it does with tobacco. However, once you've got the heat under control, a bowl will last 45-60 minutes. Best of all, you'll get the same delicious flavor and strong clouds of smoke from beginning to end.

If mixing flavors is something you enjoy, Soex lends itself quite well to flavor mixes. A couple of my favorites are Orange + Vanilla for a creamy orange flavor, Coffee + Mint + Vanilla for a delicious coffee with cream and a hint of mint, and Blueberry + Mint for a refreshing cool berry taste.

Flavors: Aniseed, Apple, Blackberry, Black Licorice, Blueberry, Bombay Panmasala, Bubblegum, Cardamom, Chocomint, Cinnamon, Coffee, Coconut, Double Apple, Golden Apple, Grape, Honey, Lime-Lemon, Lychee, Mango, Mint, Mintos, Mixed Fruit, Orange, Pan Rasna, Peach, Pina Colada, Pineapple, Pudina, Raspberry, Red Cherry, Rooh Afza Cool, Rose, Silver Fox, Strawberry, Sweet Lime, Sweet Melon, Vanilla, Watermelon, White Grape

Carleen's Top 5:
Silver Fox (apple + mint), Rooh Afza Cool (extracts of citrus flowers, rose, and fruits), Blueberry, Mango, and Double Apple

Hookah News

It's always interesting to see how the hookah fares in the media, so this morning I googled "hookah" just to see what I could find. In addition to the usual anti-smoking hype, the search brought some some fun reads that I've decided to share.

Bookah Bear, a product created by a couple of enterprising University of South Carolina students, is an interesting way to combine two very different comfort items.

Washington has some of the tightest anti-smoking laws in the country, but
a couple of deep-thinking young entrepreneurs have found a way to open a hookah lounge in Seattle by "using the letter of the law to say something about the spirit of the law." Kudos to Paul Green and Erin Cobb, our customers, on the successful opening of the Cobra Lounge!

Since the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union, independently owned and operated businesses have blossomed in Russia. Take, for example, the
Om Cafe where an Uzbek transplant to Moscow spent six months in hookah training and six months as a hookah apprentice before earning the title of "Hookah Master."

And so it goes. . .

Hookah Hoses: A Separate Peace

So you've got a new shisha flavor in the bowl, the hookah is fired up, and you take the first hit. You may have been expecting to taste the juicy sweetness of summer watermelon or the bite of sour apple, but instead you taste yesterday's flavor du jour! What did you do wrong? What's up with the aftertaste that has taken hold of your hookah hose? The problem with lingering flavors is one that we frequently discuss with customers who call or email us wondering how they can remove the taste that some flavors leave as a calling card in their hookah hoses.

Because hookah hoses are made with porous materials, they will and do absorb flavors. Mint, Double Apple, and Black Licorice are the primary culprits of this phenomenon due to their strength and flavor longevity. Once the flavor is absorbed into the fabric of your hose, you have two choices: (1) just deal with it until another flavor masks it, or (2) use a different hose. Remember, hookah hoses are not washable, so don't think that rinsing a hose with water or a cleaning solution will solve the problem. It won't. In fact, you'll end up creating an even bigger problem as your hose deteriorates much more quickly than it should and will have to be replaced sooner than you had anticipated.

Hookah lounges and cafes, well aware of the issue of lingering flavors, use a separate hose for certain flavors to avoid the problem altogether. Some of them even use a separate hose for every single flavor that they serve! While you don't need to have as many hoses as you do flavors, it is a good idea to follow the first example of using a different hose for flavors such as these:
  • Licorice / Aniseed family, including Double Apple
  • Mint family, including any flavor mixed with it
  • Mixed Drinks family, including Pina Colada, Margarita, and Sex on the Beach among others
  • Coconut

Because I didn't focus on a specific molasses brand, there may be other potent flavors on the market that your hoses will absorb. This is easy enough to determine on your own based on how long it takes for the last flavor you smoked with the hose to be replaced with the new one.

20% OFF + FREE Shipping

As the holiday season draws ever closer and budgets even tighter, we've marked down more than 800 items to make your holiday shopping a little less harmful to the wallet. Not only have we marked down the products, but several of the ones on sale are part of a FREE SHIPPING deal as well, so you can get twice the bang for your buck!
We've got authentic Egyptian hookahs for less than $20, charcoal + shisha packages for less than $20, replacement heads for less than $3, and MUCH MORE!
And finally, if you've got lots of shopping to do and spend $100 or more, we'll ship your order via UPS Ground to a street address in the continental US absolutely FREE!

Did you know? Hookah Trivia

It's early in the a.m. here in the OC, and I'm looking for a fun way to start the day before heading off to face the mounds of paperwork that await me at the office. Of course starting up the hookah and drinking a cup of Gevalia with Hazlenut cream helps, but since I can't share those with anyone here and hookah is all about sharing, I found some fun hookah trivia to share instead. Enjoy!

Did you know. . .
  • that Disney's animators must be secret hookah fans? Take a close look at the animated film, Aladdin. One of the vendors in the opening scenes has a french fry maker that is actually a hookah!
  • that King Ludwig of Bavaria, who sincerely strove to live a fairytale life, required his retainers to lounge around on cushions and smoke hookahs as he created the illusion of himself as an Ottoman ruler? (Side note: Ludwig II is my personal favorite of the old-school European monarchs. Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland was modeled after his Neuschwanstein castle!)
  • that the 1960s B-Movie, Barbarella - Queen of the Galaxy, starring Jane Fonda, has a scene with hookah-smoking women to represent or symbolize corrupt laziness?
  • that Christian Slater cleans up a brass hookah in the not-so-good horror flick, Alone in the Dark?
  • that a hookah takes a leading role in the graphic novel, Cairo, by M. K. Parker and G. Willow Wilson? If you're into comic books in paperback form, this one comes highly recommended from a friend of mine.
  • that we have sold hookahs to production companies who planned to use them in movies? Who knows, we may be famous some day!

Mix It Up: More Shisha Combinations

It's fun to experiment with mixing shisha flavors! With the plethora of delicious and unusual tastes from which to choose, mixing up flavor combos has become something of an art among hookah fans. Some of the most popular hookah lounges offer a "house mix," a combination of flavors unique to their establishments, while others encourage customers to mix flavors of their own.

If you've never tried flavor mixing before and think that you're ready to give it a shot, try one of these great mixes that our customers have recommended:

These combos were made with Soex Herbal Shisha, but they will probably work equally well with regular shisha as well. You may, however, have to adjust the ratios based on the strength of the flavors in the shisha you choose to mix.

Have some fun experimenting with your favorite flavors and if you get a really good mix, please pass it along!

The Spirit of Giving

A couple of years ago, Ali and his sister (who still lives in Egypt) started a co-op to help widows and their children. These women and their families live in poverty with very little opportunity to improve their futures. They don't complain about their circumstances and deal with their lives as best they can. Although they don't have money or jobs, these women do have some amazing needlecraft skills. With those skills and materials that we donate to them, the women make beaded chokers and bracelets, beaded bellydance scarves, crochet hats, and macramé chokers and bracelets that we purchase from them for resale. The women maintain their dignity and provide for their families without having to rely on anyone other than themselves. The co-op has been so successful that others are now buying their handcrafted items for resale as well!

'Tis the season to be jolly for sure, but it's also the time of year when gratitude finds its best expressions. Ali and I would like to thank all of our customers who have purchased one of these items from the Widow's Co-Op because your purchases have helped us to continue to help them help themselves and for that, we are extremely grateful.

Theft in the Guise of Flattery

An old adage relates that copying is the highest form of flattery and judging from the many places where I have found my words plagiarized by others, I must be one incredible writer! And while it may seem like I ought to be flattered that others find what I have to say good enough to steal, very little else in the world irritates me as much as plagiarism.

Although I spend a considerable amount of time managing the computer jobs associated with running our business, I teach literature and composition at a state university in what I like to call my "real life." As an educator of college students, most of whom plan to become teachers themselves, I find myself constantly shocked and awed by the decline in students' concern for ethical behavior when it competes with grades. In the business world, the same competition occurs except that money or sales replace the concern for grades.

My husband and I offer
our handcrafted Egyptian items on eBay and have worked arduously to become successful sellers there. From learning how to take better photos of our products to writing the descriptions and clarifying sales terms, it has been a long journey to make our name and brand stand out among the sea of sellers on the world's foremost auction site. And what I have learned along the way is that other sellers, in an effort to build their own businesses, see nothing wrong in stealing my hard work in the process.

Ethics in business has become consumed by the bottom line, and profits far outweigh the value of honesty. I first noticed this when other eBay sellers realized that authentic Egyptian hookahs sell better than the Chinese manufactured ones do and began deliberately misleading buyers about their wares. Falsely labeling their inferior products as "Egyptian" to attract unsuspecting buyers into believing that they would receive an authentic Egyptian hookah, these sellers didn't give a damn about integrity or their customers; their primary concern was in raking in the "big bucks" for an "Egyptian" hookah. In an effort to combat this dishonesty,
I wrote an eBay guide describing the differences between handcrafted Egyptian hookahs and their Chinese manufactured counterparts. The popularity of this guide made it vulnerable to plagiarism. It didn't take long for other eBay sellers to begin copying portions of it in their item descriptions, store headers, and blogs. I have given up on policing the thieves because there are simply too many of them, and I have students to tend to and a business to run instead.

Part of building a successful eBay business is branding, or making your company name and products stand out in the crowd. We've been around the eBay block for several years now, so our brand and products are recognized fairly easily. On one hand, this recognition has helped us tremendously; however, on the other, it has made the benefits of all the hard work that we put into building our business sometimes seem like a wasted effort. Why? Because the recognition that we have achieved has made our item descriptions and photos vulnerable to unethical sellers on eBay and eCommerce sites who see nothing wrong in stealing them. These unscrupulous individuals don't want to build a business of their own; instead, they seek the easy way to the top by stealing.

There is, however, a pot of gold at the end of this seemingly dark rainbow. As
one blogger pointed out in a discussion of the glut of hookahs for sale on eBay and the effect is has on the market, "the pioneer Hookah eBayers still have the power and attract more" buyers. I would argue that the problem is not that eBay has too many hookah sellers but that eBay has too many dishonest hookah sellers.

Introducing Saalaam Exotic Organic Shisha: More Peace for Your Pipe

We'll soon be adding a new product to our shisha line-up, and we couldn't be more excited about it! Saalaam, which means "peace" in Arabic, is a new organic shisha made in Egypt. Saalaam has been tested among hookah fans for months to determine things like which flavors are the most appealing, how long a bowl lasts, the intensity and color of the smoke it produces, and overall product quality. We brought some samples to the U.S. to share with our customers as well and since the response we have received about it is overwhelmingly positive, we signed up to become the sole U.S. distributor of the product. Our first container of Saalaam is scheduled to arrive from Egypt sometime in January 2008.

Saalaam has no tobacco, no tar, and no nicotine. Its unique mouth-watering flavors, several of which are not available in any other product on the market, will definitely add the "aah" of satisfaction to your hookah experience!

We still have some samples left so if you're interested in trying it out, give us a shout.

It's Cyber Monday!

With Black Friday officially a resounding retail success, online merchants hope to share in the consumer spending spree today, Cyber Monday. Although it is really only the 12th busiest shopping day of the year according to Business Week, internet merchants have prepared an advertising blitz of a magnitude that boggles the mind. Just google "Cyber Monday" to see what I mean.

Shop.org, a member of the National Retail Federation, gave birth to the idea for Cyber Monday in 2005, a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Based on the notion that the fever pitch of Black Friday would extend to online shopping when employees returned to work the Monday after Thanksgiving, the marketing "genuises" who created Cyber Monday overlooked the fact that access to the internet is far more common in the American household than they considered. In fact,
a recent study indicates that 2/3 of American homes have internet access, thus buyers who want to continue their Black Friday shopping spree can easily do so from home on Friday night!

Despite the cutsie name and the media attention it has garnered, Cyber Monday is not as successful as anticipated. eCommerce analysts, after studying the web traffic of online merchants, report that the busiest online shopping days occur between December 5 and 15 in any given year. This statistic makes complete sense to me, as we've been selling online for 7 years and have always found that the last-minute shoppers come out in droves during this period. In 2005, the year when Cyber Monday was launched, a survey done by Shop.org revealed that online merchants reported December 12th as their busiest day of the year!

Although I don't plan to spend a lot of time looking for deals online this Cyber Monday, I will search for deals on a few things. Since I hate shopping to begin with, the idea of queuing up in a parking lot for a "door buster" deal is not at all appealing to me. Even though the prices are not as deeply slashed as those offered at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, I'd much rather scope out bargains from my far less crowded couch.

Find a Hookah Lounge in the U.S.

I'm lucky enough to have the entire week of Thanksgiving off from teaching. My students are thrilled to have a week off from me! As we chatted before the end of class on Wednesday, I took note that several of them planned to spend Thanksgiving in their home states and were preparing to leave as soon as today. My students' travel plans got me thinking about our customers who attend universities away from home.

Since many of our customers buy a hookah from us after they've been to a hookah lounge, it's probably safe for me to conclude that there are plenty of lounges within a reasonable distance from a college campus where students go to smoke and socialize with friends. But what happens when you go home? You've been away for a while, and the old hometown might not look the same when you return for the holidays. Where will you go to smoke hookah with the hometown pals?

I did some searching and discovered a fantastic resource for hookah fans, and it's especially useful to anyone who travels and wants to smoke hookah in an unfamiliar place.
Hookah-Bars.com has compiled a list of hookah lounges across the country and organized them state by state. Now no matter where you plan to travel, you can look for a smoking spot to share hookah with friends! Some states, like Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont have no hookah lounges listed. Whether or not that means these states are missing out on the hookah experience, I don't know. If you live in New England, though, you're totally screwed -- look at how few of the New England states actually have a hookah lounge!

Business majors and entrepreneurs, there's an opportunity for you -- populate New England with hookah lounges and show those poor people what they've been missing!

To Tip or Not to Tip: Hookah Hose Hygiene

The social aspect of smoking hookah means that at some point, multiple users will be sharing a hose. Unfortunately, that also means that you'll share all the germs from the other users as well. Eeeewww!!

The best way to avoid the germ issue is by using a plastic mouth tip on the end of your hose, but how can you tell whether your hose needs a male or a female tip?

To determine the type of tips you need for your hookah hose, it's best to think in terms of anatomy. Hoses that have a metal tip protruding from the end are male hoses and need female tips. If your hose does not have a metal tip sticking out at the end, it is female and needs male tips (shown above). Although this is the general rule, here's a nice tip to know: male mouth tips will actually work on both types of hoses!

Our Hookahs in the News

We're always happy to share our customers' good news, so I'd like to send a shout out and kudos to Javid's Indian Grill & Hookah Lounge in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on the grand opening of their second location. If you're in the Carlisle area, why not check it out?

Javid's Indian Grill & Hookah Lounge
240 N. Hanover Street
Carlisle, PA 17013
(717) 240-0100
Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday, 11-10; Friday & Saturday 11-11
Map / Directions

Trick-or-Treat Shisha Mixes

I wanted to be really kitschy and title this post "Happy Hookahleen," but reason prevailed at the last moment. So instead of a catchy title, I decided that it would be much more in keeping with the spirit of the day to offer you a treat by sharing a shisha mix recipe instead. Enjoy!

Cherry Vanilla Cola
If you're into the soda flavor, here's how to get a shisha mix that is very close in taste!
  • 2 parts Cola flavor
  • 1 part Red Cherry flavor
  • 1 part Vanilla flavor
Mix all three flavors together and let sit for at least an hour to allow them to blend together. We don't recommend any specific shisha brand -- just find the flavors from the brand that you prefer. If you are a Pepsi kind of person, Layalina's Cola will work best but if you're a Coke drinker, you'll definitely want Starbuzz's Classic Cola!

How much is that hookah in the window?

$2,000,000 -- two million dollars, that's how much! This must be some kind of special pipe, right? Surely it's made from 18K gold and covered in diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and other gems if it can command such a hefty price, right? WRONG on both counts! The high-priced hookah is a stamped brass hookah with zip, zero, zilch, nada fancy on it. In fact, it's not even new -- your $2 MILLION will get you a used hookah!

If the hookah isn't made of precious metal and jewels, why would it command such a high price? In the real world marketplace, a brass hookah would never sell for such an outrageously high price. But this hookah sale is the brainchild of a family seeking to hang onto their land and their "father's legacy" by raising enough money to purchase and turn it into a "totally self-sufficient mini-community."

While I don't doubt the seriousness of this family's desire to keep the land that their father probably cared for and about, it's not very likely that their commonplace brass hookah will fetch them the needed funds. Still, I wish them luck in their endeavor and applaud their creativity in seeking financing for their project. If you've got the money this family needs and want a brass hookah, you can
visit their site.

Fight the Hookah Hype!

Fear mongers have had plenty to say since the hookah craze hit the United States. With carefully worded headlines intended to provoke widespread fear, the alarmist media has been hard at work spreading as much misinformation about the hookah culture as possible. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I prefer to think that the hype is a direct result of ignorance. And since ignorance propagates fear, it's time to expose the hookah hype.

"Smoking hookah for one hour is the equivalent of smoking 100 cigarettes!"

Several published studies have jumped on the bandwagon behind this claim, although the number of cigarettes varies from one article to the next. How can this be? Simply put, the stats are false. Not long after the WHO (World Health Organisation) published, in 2005, its "Advisory Note" claiming that hookah smoking poses an international health threat, the hype began in earnest. Despite the glaring errors in WHO's "study," not a single responsible journalist who used the information from the article did his or her homework by investigating the claims the authors of the study had made. When did the folks who work for WHO become infallible? Not only is their study faulty but worse yet, the pseudo-scientists who conducted the research didn't bother to use the correct terminology which resulted in the spread of false information!

Make no mistake about it, smoking can be dangerous to your health; I am not about to claim otherwise. However, when a group as influential as
WHO doesn't know the difference between tambak (raw tobacco) and ma'assel (sweetened flavored tobacco) even when making claims about the dangers of smoking hookah, Houston, we have a problem! It is deceitful to equate tar levels in ma'assel and cigarettes because (1) they are two different types of processed tobacco and (2) the tobacco is burned and consumed via different methods.

Whereas cigarette tobacco is deliberately processed with chemicals designed to create an addiction, ma'assel is not. Ma'assel is natural tobacco soaked in glycerol and flavors making it, by volume, 60%-70% tobacco depending on the manufacturer. Cigarette smokers burn the tobacco -- along with all the crap that tobacco companies add to it -- directly, but any true hookah enthusiast knows that burning ma'assel leads to a most unpleasant smoking experience and seeks to avoid this at all costs! Ma'assel, because of the moisture that the glycerol and flavors provide, is actually vaporized in the smoking process; the tobacco is not burned but rather, heated at a significantly lower temperature than that required to burn to tobacco in a cigarette.

Cigarette smokers carry their addiction with them wherever they go and can light up in a matter of seconds. Hookah smokers, on the other hand, don't have the luxury of lighting up anywhere, anytime and most wouldn't even if they could. In fact, most hookah smokers still follow the etiquette of the Middle East where hookah smoking is an activity meant to be enjoyed in a relaxing, social environment among the company of friends. While cigarette smokers puff continuously to feed their addiction, hookah smokers take a puff or two before passing the hose off to a buddy.
The study that claims 1 hour of hookah smoking is equal to smoking 100 cigarettes is faulty for a variety of reasons.

The average hookah smoker enjoys the pipe far less frequently than the average cigarette smoker fills his ashtray with butts, so why the fear-mongering about the hookah? Could it be that people are afraid of the hookah because it is a non-Western device? Maybe there's a grand conspiracy at work here. . .

For more on the misinformation about hookahs, I recommend taking a look at the
Observatory on Hookah and Health blog. The author does a great job of debunking several myths associated with the hookah.

Chinese Imported Hookahs: A Danger to Users?

As more and more toys manufactured in China are recalled due to safety concerns, I think it's about time that someone speaks out about the thousands of hookahs manufactured in China under the same conditions as those recalled toys! Perhaps because of the disdain many people have for smoking in general there hasn't been any serious examination of the materials used in the manufacture of Chinese hookahs. American consumers are rightfully concerned about lead paint on toys, yet hookah smokers seem to be ignoring the very real possibility that the hookah they own may pose the same dangers as the toys being pulled off store shelves!

If the hookah you own looks like any of the photos in this post, you ought to be worried because no matter what you were told when you purchased it, these hookahs were all ma
nufactured in China. The materials used in the manufacturing process in China are chosen not for their safety or durability, but for their low cost. Anyone who has ever come to our shop with a Chinese made hookah in tow has had the same complaint: the material painted on the shaft to give it color comes off after exposure to the water in the base. Think about it, hookah fans! If the shaft of your hookah is painted and that paint wears off due to its being submerged in water, what materials are being emitted into the water and then passed through it to your lungs? Do you have any clue what that paint is made of or if it contains lead?

Not sure if your hookah was manufactured in China? Here are some things to look for on your hookah to determine if it was made in China:
  • It comes in a hard shell carrying case. (Only hookahs made in China come in these cases! Some unscrupulous eBay sellers are calling these Chinese fakes "Egyptian" hookahs because they purchase the Chinese ones after they have been imported to Egypt. Just because you bought a Chinese hookah in Egypt does NOT make it an authentic Egyptian hookah, peeps!)
  • It has a ceramic bowl or head. (Authentic Egyptian hookahs come with bowls made from the rich clay found along the banks of the Nile River. Why would the Egyptians import Chinese porcelain bowls when they've got a riverbed lined with some of the best clay in the world and artisans who earn their living turning that clay into products?)
  • The shaft is painted the same color as the base. (Hookahs made in Egypt never, never have painted shafts! The authentic Egyptian hookah will have a stainless steel or brass shaft which means you have a choice of two colors only -- silver and gold. If your hookah has a blue, green, red, or black shaft, it was made in China.)
  • The base is plain or painted with a design that is easy to reproduce. (Because they are made by machinery, Chinese hookahs typically have no design on the base. No artisan has ever touched the Chinese made hookah, thus it is plain and undecorated. Any hookahs made in China that do have designs on them are so pathetically decorated that it is easy to see that a machine, not an artist, did the work on them. These hookahs are virtually identical in appearance with no originality to them whatsoever. Boring!)
  • It has a "washable" hose. (Since we've been manufacturing hookah hoses in Egypt for four generations, we know that there is no such thing as a truly washable hose. Why? Because inside each hose is a wire coil around which the tubing that makes up the hose itself is wrapped. Even if the exterior layer is made of leather, pleather, or some other man made material, the inside is still a wire coil that will rust and degrade over time. The process is only sped up when water is run through the so-called "washable" hose! Honestly, the washable hose is a clever marketing strategy; however, the truth about them will win in the end.)

  • It has flashing lights in or on the shaft. (No self-respecting Egyptian hookah manufacturer would ever debase a much loved cultural icon with flashing lights. Barnum and Bailey were not Egyptian, and cheap tricks won't impress the true hookah enthusiast!)

  • Its hoses are made of pleather and have none of the characteristic decorative elements characteristic of the authentic Egyptian hookah hose. (Authentic Egyptian hookahs have marvelous hoses that are designed to enhance the smoking experience in a variety of ways. First, they must be aesthetically pleasing because so much of the hookah experience is about social interaction. Who wants to share a hookah with friends when the hose is just plain or just plain ugly? Besides, fancier hoses are also a social determiner; people with money can afford to have more elaborately decorated hoses to share with their friends. Second, length and circumference varies based on the size of the hookah to which the hose is attached. Whereas the Chinese hookahs are a uniform circumference irrespective of the height of the hookah, authentic Egyptian hookahs have hoses made to fit the height of the pipe. The bigger the pipe, the fatter the hose. Third, authentic Egyptian hookahs come with the same number of hoses as the hookah will hold. Chinese made hookahs may be able to hold up to four hoses, but it's not likely that you will get four hoses with your hookah! This is another clever marketing strategy on the part of those who deal in Chinese made products.)

  • It has an acrylic base. (Authentic Egyptian hookahs always have a glass base blown by a master craftsman and more often than not, hand painted by an artist. You will never find an authentic Egyptian hookah with an acrylic base -- NEVER!)

If the hookah you own looks like any of the photos in this post, you've been had! Your hookah was manufactured in China. There is nothing authentic about it, unless you consider an authentic fraud a positive. If you do own a hookah that was made in China, you should be especially concerned about using it considering the recent recalls of Chinese made products other than toys.

Stained Glass Hookahs

The beauty of stained glass windows in the cathedrals of Europe is surely a sight to behold. The dedication and craftsmanship required to produce such magnificent art is, sadly, for the most part, locked away in the past. In our fast-paced world, most people have fail to appreciate or understand the time and attention to the detail that goes into producing such finely crafted pieces of art, thus they are unwilling to pay a fair market value for them. If a craftsman will not be adequately compensated for his work by consumers who desire what he has produced but are unwilling to pay for it, he must turn to other avenues to earn a living and when this happens, arts and crafts are lost to future generations.

When Ali came across an artist in Egypt who had a penchant for painting stained glass Arabesque designs on hookah bases, he quickly hired him to design glasses exclusively for us. We know a true treasure when we see one and are determined to keep the arts and crafts movement alive and well in Egypt! These stunning hookahs can't be found anywhere else, unless I was nice enough to allow one of our wholesale customers to buy a few from us and when I did, it was only a couple of select models.

These authentic Egyptian hookahs come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from the traditional to the batta (Arabic for "duck" and referring to the rounded bottom which resembles a duck's, shall we say, "waddle"?) to the pyramid.

The stained glass look, such as the one on the right, is available in 22-inch one and two hose models or 32-inch one, two, three, or four hose models. With so many colors on the glass, the possibilities for hose options are amazing: red, yellow, blue, green, maroon, and black all look fantastic on this hookah! Best of all, these are colors that we have in stock at all times. You could have matching hoses in a single color, or with a multi-hose hookah, choose two, three, or even four different colors -- that's a different colored hose for each smoker. Just imagine the creative possibilities with this one glass!

The amber colored Arabesque hookah is unique both for its design and its color. The picture on the left shows it in the batta shape, but it is also available in the traditional style. Warm amber colored glass is hand painted with black and gold Arabesque designs. The best thing about these glasses is that because each one is painted by hand, the designs vary slightly on each glass. This means that every one is slightly different, resulting in a 100% unique hookah every time.

We firmly believe that to keep the arts and crafts of the past alive, we need to do more than admire them in photos. We need to pay tribute to the men and women who keep these time-honored traditions alive by sharing their craftsmanship with the world. Machine-made goods are fine for some things, but they will never be able to reproduce the artistry of the human touch or add the charm from an artist's hand to a product!