How to Light a Shisha Pipe

hookah image by Valery Shanin from

A shisha pipe is an ancient water pipe used for relaxation. At social occasions smokers come together to chat and rest. Shisha was conceived in the Middle East and is called "Nargile" by the Lebanese people and "hookah" in the English language.

Fill the glass water bottle of the shisha pipe with approximately 1 inch of water. The amount of water should just submerge the central metal tube of the pipe (the longest piece of equipment). The area in the bottle not filled with water is the area where the smoke will mix and cool with the air.

Assemble the pipe. The glass water bottle forms the bottom base of your pipe and a rubber seal sits on top of it. The metal pipe slides inside the seal and sits in the water. A metal tray, a grommet, a clay bowl and a wind cover (in that order) should form the top of the pipe.

Attach the rubber hose seal to the metal pipe and then add the smoking hose (or hoses) to the seal; this will form the smoking mouthpiece.

Prepare the tobacco molasses. Ensure that you stir the tobacco and make sure that the tobacco juices and molasses are combined and fused; sometimes the juices and molasses can sink and separate, making the smoke distasteful.

Place the tobacco into the clay bowl at the top of the pipe. If you are new to smoking a shisha pipe, place only a small amount of tobacco into the bowl; for experienced smokers, 8 to 10g of tobacco per smoke is a good measurement. Breaking up the tobacco will prevent blocking the holes and produce a cleaner, less intense smoke.

Cover the clay bowl with a small sheet of aluminium foil. Make the sheet of aluminium tight and use a toothpick to punch 12 to 15 holes into the foil. Suck on the pipe and see if enough air comes through the mouthpiece; if it is difficult to breathe, punch in a few more holes.

Light the charcoal. Quick-light charcoal is the quickest and easiest source of heat to use--however many experienced pipe smokers prefer natural charcoal. Light the charcoal and wait for at least 2 minutes before the charcoal finishes sparking. When it has calmed down, place the block on the edge of the clay bowl and work it around the edge of the bowl. The centre of the clay bowl is the last place you smoke the pipe; this is when the charcoal is warmer and less likely to taint the taste of the pipe.

Smoke the pipe. Begin slowly and suck gently so that the tobacco cooks gently--this will maintain the flavour. Inhale some air every now and again to clear your palette.

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