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Chances are at some point in your life you've passed by a random hookah cafe and wondered to yourself how the entire thing works. Are there any differences between smoking out of a hookah pipe compared to smoking a regular cigarette or cigar? Is it healthier than regular cigarette smoking since it filters the vapor?
What is a Hookah?
While hookahs come in a variety of interesting shapes and sizes, they're pretty much all the same in the way they work. Basically, a water pipe used to smoke tobacco, hookahs are often used in tandem with sweetened or flavored tobacco variants. There are many differences between rolled tobacco and these traditional water pipes. The main difference between is the large water chamber used to cool the vapor released when combusting the tobacco, resulting in a much more relaxing and cooler inhale. Also your tobacco isn't lit up and it's heated by charcoals using convection heating.
Many enjoy smoking at hookah cafes on occasion thanks to its ability to be shared by multiple smokers at the same time. This makes it more of a tool for social gatherings.
How a Shisha Works?
While a hookah or shisha pipe has numerous parts which all play a part in altering the smoking experience, it's easier to understand how it works by splitting the pipe into 3 main components. First is the hose which is passed around and used to inhale from. The hose is connected to the top of the 2nd part, the vase or jar which is used as a filter and to cool the smoke that passes through. The last component is the bowl of the hookah pipe, often located at the very top. This is used to hold the tobacco as well as a small chunk of coal used to heat the tobacco.
When inhaling from the hose, heated air gets pulled in from the bowl where the coal and tobacco are positioned and travels down to the water vase which effectively cools down the smoke before finally traveling out to the hose. Some larger variants of shisha pipes allow for multiple hose setups so that shisha smokers don't need to pass the hose around.
Types of Hookahs
As the name might imply, glass hookahs are constructed completely out of glass. While still a relatively new development in contrast to the more traditional Egyptian or Syrian hookah, glass hookahs are steadily gaining in popularity. This is because of their transparent aesthetic that lets smokers enjoy watching the smoke travel through the pipe before it reaches the hose.
In general glass hookahs are also said to produce a better flavor compared to traditional hookah pipes which use metal components. This can sometimes produce a slight metallic flavor in the smoke inhaled. Glass hookahs are also easier to clean as they are more chemically inert compared to any metals used in other traditional hookahs.
Usually constructed out of stainless steel, brass, copper, or a combination of these three, Egyptian hookahs are considered to be more traditional compared to modern types of hookahs. They are characterized by their much longer stems. Their taller stature might make them a bit more unwieldy compared to shorter and more modern hookah pipes. Some still prefer Egyptian hookahs as they have more character in comparison to modern hookahs.
Similar to Egyptian hookahs, Syrian hookahs were differentiated by their Egyptian counterparts by using a male jointed bowl. More recent designs, however, have shifted the Syrian hookahs to using a female jointed bowl as well. Syrian hookahs can be identified by their much more slender stems (sometimes slender than Egyptian hookahs)
The advent of the modern hookah can be linked to China's success in identifying a strong demand for cheap, mass-produced hookah pipes. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes. While these often use glass as a main component, some metal parts and fittings are still used, differentiating these from glass hookahs. While not hand-made, the modern hookah can still be considered durable and reliable depending on the manufacturer. It also exhibits a wide price range starting from the ultra cheap, all the way to the exorbitantly expensive.