Tuesday, June 27th, 2006...2:44 pm

Hookah Lounge Etiquette and Smoking Technique

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Hookah Lounge Etiquette and smoking tips

By being aware of this, you may have confidence to travel anywhere in the world and use a hookah.

Be aware that not all the places listed in the directory are hookah lounges exclusively. Some are coffee shops or restaurants with Middle Eastern cuisine and flair, and supply shishas as an aside. They cater to Middle Eastern clientele and are as intimate as a livingroom with a group of regulars, and YOU, as a newcomer, are expected to be on your best behavior. Respect the culture. You know a place is good when you see Middle Eastern people present, don’t drive them away. Many establishments rely on regulars and have close ties with them. (“We used to go there, but it has been overrun by disrespectful kids. They’ve ruined it for the rest of us.”) As a side note, don’t let your thoughts of current world events be translated to other customers. It is best to avoid this topic. We all wish the best for the future.

In general, many hookah lounges are very classy and plush places with unique decor.
Keep with the vibe, dress nicely, be respectful and don’t be a loudmouth.

If you show up in shorts, flip-flops, an ICP shirt and a backwards baseball cap, and you’re a loudmouth, everyone will think you’re an A-H and you’ve ruined the vibe for everyone. You’ll be like a cockroach in the rice bowl. On the other hand, some places cater to you rowdy idiotic slobs and puke-reeking fashion disasters as long as you have money to blow. Do yourself and the industry a favor, keep up the high standards. Since this phenomenon is still rather young, we still have a chance at shaping its destiny. The media is already trying to pigeon-hole the hookah lounge clientele, so let’s perpetuate the favorable reputation and do it RIGHT.

Hookah Lounge owners: I suggest “DRESS CODE ENFORCED” and don’t play Beastie Boys on the stereo.

Some small restaurants may be eventually driven to post “Shisha with meals only.” OBLIGE THEM. The experience will be vastly improved!
Fancy Hookah Bar
It seems that everyone’s missing the point already, thinking that just merely showing up to one of these places makes you cool. Well WAKE UP! Don’t be a kook! Be a pro and dress like one after we help to show you how to ACT like one. Part of what makes shisha smoking so cool is the mastery of the people involved. Don’t dilute the coolness factor.

Hookahs belong on the floor and not on the table, because it is an object of service. Imagine the notion of “putting someone on a pedestal.” This is along the same idea, and the shisha is an item of much lower rank, if you will. Traditional establishments will still adhere to this rule, while some hookah lounges are placing the hookah on the table for everyone to enjoy. Not very authentic, but it does celebrate the hookah. Smaller hookahs on a table are more convenient, as you can imagine, and sometimes this is the only option.

Now some hard rules and tips to stop kooks in their tracks.

Never light your cigarette from the hookah coals, it’s considered VERY bad manners.

Use the hookah hose with your RIGHT hand. The left hand is considered unclean in many countries.

When sharing a hookah and you’re done smoking for the moment, place the hose down on the table for the next person to pick up. Don’t pass it directly. A variant of this is if you must pass, use the RIGHT HAND with the tip facing towards you, not the recipient. Turn the hookah toward the recipient or have the hookah placed in a neutral position to prevent tipping. Sometimes the hose is so long that this isn’t an issue, or a rotating hookah may be used.

Use the tongs to occasionally tap the coals in the tray on the stem to remove ash and keep the coals hot. Replace the coals to a different position on the bowl.

And now for the obvious: On multiple hose hookahs, those not smoking for the moment should plug their mouthpieces with a finger so that the person smoking doesn’t suck air.

Many people suggest using punctured foil on top of your bowl underneath the coals. DID YOU KNOW THAT EXCESSIVE ALUMINUM IN THE BODY CAUSES ALZHEIMER’S? Smoking from household aluminum isn’t good for you anyway, there are also bonding agents that give off fumes. Don’t be afraid with OCCASIONAL smoking, but don’t make it a habit; don’t use household foil on your personal hookah. There is foil available made especially for hookahs, or use a screen meant for hookahs. The latter is recommended, but your bowl will last much longer with foils if the holes are done correctly.

With the tongs, move the coals around the screen occasionally to allow for even burning of the tobacco throughout the session. The center of the bowl should be the ending place the coals should be concentrated, but this doesn’t matter much.

There is no urgency or competitiveness when smoking a shisha unlike sharing smaller pipes. The bowls last a long time, and this is a leisurely activity. Enjoy it. It is recommended that one shisha be shared among no more than three people. Some lounges enforce the two people per shisha rule.

Don’t take too many photos in a hookah lounge, it disturbs the atmosphere. (“Hookah, yaaayy, wooo!!”) In fact, you might get some dirty looks depending on where you are.

Don’t cause or contribute to a commotion. Shisha smoking is a quieter activity but still may be social without being disturbing to others.

Don’t smoke cigarettes unless ashtrays are provided. Take the hint – If there are no ashtrays, then cig smoking is probably not allowed, but ASK FIRST before lighting up. They might have ashtrays behind the counter for you OR they might say no cigarette smoking is allowed in certain areas. Respect people’s wishes and don’t argue. Chances are that in the Middle East, if you don’t see others smoking cigarettes then the activity is frowned upon.

DO NOT use the coal tray for your cigarette ashes. That’s a TOTAL kook move.

With respect comes respect, and this process is initiated with the successful mastery of the shisha and social manners in the presence of other masters. When you have mastered the shisha and know fully and demonstrate the social manners associated with it, you may have confidence in enjoying the shisha anywhere in the world and in teaching others so that the proper etiquette is perpetuated.

6 Comments

  • does anyone know where i can find that has info on this and it is not for pot smokers?my mom is going crazy bc she doesnt believe me!

  • I went to the Middle East, and hookah smoking there is not as sacred as you make it sound to be. They do it all day long, and no they are not dressed up when they do it either. If our society wants to be true to culture than they shouldn’t start enforcing dress codes or eating policies along with smoking hookah– thats not true to their culture!

  • Though I haven’t been to the middle east, I’ve been to a few hookah lounges and I can say that most of these rules are pretty accurate as far as creating an enjoyable atmosphere. The dress code and public behavior sections can be replaced with common sense, however. Unless you’re in a loud bar, those kinds of unruly behavior and attire don’t fit anywhere, much less an establishment with “Lounge” in the name.

  • “Hookah Lounge owners: I suggest ‚ÄúDRESS CODE ENFORCED‚Äù and don‚Äôt play Beastie Boys on the stereo.”

    Thank you so much! We need to spread this stuff around. I have been to several hookah lounges that play nothing but Linkin Park and other loud music.

    Also with passing of the hose, many people don’t think to pass with the hose facing themselves…and it just looks like a flaccid you know what.

  • I love hookah god bless u middle easteners !

  • These rules are dumb u u guys are gay. never seen a hookah bar like the one u describe. and im middle eastern

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