Head Over Hookah

You always eat using the outside silverware first and work your way in because it is proper etiquette. Who wants to be gawked at while eating because they used the wrong fork? Etiquette is something many people forget changes throughout different cultures and may not even know that there is an etiquette to something in a different country. It is always a good idea to know the proper etiquette to important ideas and practices when interacting with another culture. This rule applies to hookah which is a huge cultural aspect in the Middle East.

Pumpkin Hookah        Hookah Tobacco

(Pumpkin Hookah)                                                            (Hookah Tobacco)

First, you have to know the background of hookah. According to the Center for Disease Control, hookah is a water pipe in which people smoke tobacco that is specially made. Although the original Hookah was founded in India, the craze became big in the Middle East. The Hookah has four pieces; the Agizlik, or the mouthpiece, Lule, the top of the Hookah, Marpuc, the tube, and Govde, the body of the pipe. Hookah comes in all different shapes and sizes and are known by other terms such as nargile, hubble-bubble, shisha, goza, and argileh.

Second, you need to know the do’s and don’ts of smoking hookah in the Middle East. According to The Hookah and Fumari (hookah companies);

  • Never light a cigarette with the coals from the hookah
  • Never set the hookah on anything but the ground
  • Try not to pass the hose to the next person, instead set it down and let them pick it up on their own, but if you do pass the hose, pass it in a way that the mouthpiece is not pointing at the next person.
  • Only smoke tobacco out of the hookah
  • Wrap the hose around the hookah to signal that you are done
  • When smoking hookah with strangers, use your own mouth piece.
  • Puff, Puff, Pass! Meaning each person should only take two puffs of hookah then let the next person take their turn.

smoke rings

(Smoke rings)

Lastly, now that you are aware of the proper etiquette, you just might be ready for some tips about hookah and then you will really know what you are talking about.

  • Refrigerating your tobacco makes it last longer!
  • Add sweet red wine to the water to enhance flavor and add a warm feeling after every puff
  • Break the charcoal into four pieces and set them on the outer edges of the bowl and slowly move them in toward the center as the session continues
  • Make sure the tobacco is spread out evenly so the bowl does not clog

When I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Turkey, I saw these techniques and etiquette first-hand. My aunt and I sat outside of a café and smoked hookah for about an hour and watched people and socialized with locals. I loved experiencing a cultural norm from another region with natives because it gave me a better understanding of the culture. So what’s your favorite flavor? Share your tips and tricks with everyone below!


CDC – Fact Sheet – Hookahs – Smoking & Tobacco Use. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/tobacco_industry/hookahs/

TheHookah.com Ordering Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.thehookah.com/ordering-information.html

Hookahpedia (Hookah Information) – Fumari.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fumari.com/hookahpedia


6 thoughts on “Head Over Hookah

  1. I’ve actually never tried hookah, but I know it is incredibly popular in Athens, OH too! Most people that I know that enjoy hookah like the watermelon flavor the best, but the banana is a close second. For a while I thought hookah had a negative association with it, like cigarettes, but it’s grown into a more expected, leisure activity even in the past year. Maybe it’s time I jump on the bandwagon!

    1. Danielle, I agree that hookah gets a bad reputation, that’s why I wanted to focus on something less negative about something that is such a cultural norm in the Middle East. I have never had banana flavor but that sounds good, maybe I’ll try it out!

  2. I was extremely interested in this whole article, simply because I have never heard of these norms related to hookah in the Middle East. I used to own a hookah and the tips you posted would really come in handy! This post goes to show that cultures have many different norms considering the fact that whenever I shared my hookah I would always pass the hose instead of sitting it down (I will be more aware of this next time). I agree with your last paragraph entirely because when I travel it is astonishing to see there cultural norms put into place right in front of your eyes and it definitely shapes your global perspective. This article went beyond any negative association that comes along with hookah and it was definitely a unique outlook.

    1. Devon, I used to own my own hookah too and I did not know any etiquette until recently. It’s amazing that something in America that was picked up from somewhere else can lose all the proper etiquette. Being in the cultural norm in Turkey made me appreciate the etiquette and definitely gave me a different cultural perspective. It makes me wonder what else I did that may not have been considered proper etiquette while in unfamiliar places.

  3. I have smoked hookah before and was surprised while reading this blog considering I was unaware that there was etiquette that went along with smoking it. Today, in college I have always seen it as a fad but now I view it as something cultural and will consider these smoking tips the next time I smoke a hookah and share them with my friends! 🙂 I do not own a hookah but my neighbors do so I will definitely tell them how to take care of their hookah better, considering based off your article their etiquette is not on point 😛 I have heard also that smoking hookah is unhealthier than smoking cigarettes, is this true?

  4. I have smoked hookah in the past and have been to a couple of hookah bars on campus and back home. After reading this article I feel as if I have been doing it all wrong. I liked the insights on the sweet red wine and splitting the coal into fours. I personally like to try out all of the different flavors so I will have to give banana a try like Danielle suggested in a previous comment.

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