Thursday, June 1st, 2006...7:43 pm

Hookah Use in Middle-Eastern Families

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While doing research on the subject of Hookahs use, and the origins of authentic hookahs, I came across a really interesting article by Alexandra Bahou over at I want to share it with you all because getting an idea of what it would be like growing up smoking the hookah around your family might make you think differently the next time you go out to a hookah bar. Here is her article:

“I grew up with a hookah in my living room. I know, who didn‚Äôt, right? I was young at the time of actually realizing it was there and learned to regard it as a piece of art, because it was never actually used. One day, I finally gathered the courage to ask my father what the odd-looking thing sitting next to the couch actually was. He called it a hubbly-bubbly. I was so amused with the name that the curiosity of this object continued to amaze me. As I grew older, my friends would always come over and ask about the hubbly-bubbly and I would tell them it was simply a smoking apparatus. They just nodded their heads and moved on with the conversation; that is, until I hit high school. For some reason all my high school friends were convinced it was drug paraphernalia. Even though my hookah has a wedding couple on it, and clearly looks like it has never been used, that didn‚Äôt stop my friends.

I didn’t truly learn to appreciate the culture of the hubbly-bubbly until I traveled to Lebanon in the seventh grade. The hubbly-bubbly is regarded as a symbol of social mingling and relaxation over there. Being Lebanese myself, I was intrigued by the variety of tobacco flavors used and the hookah’s widespread popularity.

I am not going to lie: my first experience with the hubbly-bubbly was anything but pleasant. My cousin had just gotten married and I was at the reception, when my relatives started lighting up a bunch of hookahs. Already inflicted with a bout of motion sickness (the reception was on top of a mountain) the flavorful smoke did nothing to help my situation, and needless to say, I was sick for the rest of the night. Although my first experience was poor, I grew to learn that the hookah was a favorite pastime among my Lebanese relatives.

“You never do hookah by yourself,” said chemical engineering junior Amit Dubey. “You do it with bunch of people, so you can talk with them while you are doing it.”

Originally a Turkish custom, the hookah is primarily used as a social outlet. With tobacco flavors ranging from fruity mango to mint chocolate chip, hookah smoking has been a growing trend over the years. “The tobacco used in hookahs is flavored with different types of fruits as well as other sweet beverages, for instance, cappuccino,” said Rana Sahlah, an interior design sophomore. “There is also the regular tobacco or ‘not flavored’ kind that the older crowd usually smokes.”

The flavorful, lighter tobacco is what many people enjoy about hookahs, as opposed to the harsher tobacco used in cigarettes. “Cigarettes kind of give me a burning sensation in my throat,” said Curtis Novak, a telecommunications senior. “The hookah, however, is pretty smooth going in and it tastes much better than a cigarette.”

There are two types of tobacco used in the hookah: tanbak or shisha. Shisha is sweet and laced with honey, which allows for a lighter, more relaxing smoke. “I definitely prefer the tobacco of the hookahs over cigarettes and there are only a few cigars that I like as much as hookah tobacco,” said John Marcus, a finance senior. “I would have to say that my favorite hookah tobacco is double or triple apple.”

The hookah itself goes by various names such as, if you‚Äôre in my family, a hubbly-bubbly, water pipe or nargile. Although varying in names, the hookah itself has one primary function: to bring relaxation and comfort to the smoker. ‚ÄúI like the tobacco used in hookahs because it has an appealing flavor and smell to it,‚Äù said linguistics sophomore Carley Sirlin. ‚ÄúI like going to hookah bars because it’s a nice way to relax and socialize with my friends.‚Äù

Baffled by the weird-looking contraption that is a “hookah”? Well, there is no need to be intimidated. The hookah is composed of four different parts: the hose, base, bowl and pipe. The tobacco sits in the bowl, while the base acts as a water holder for the tobacco to be filtered through. The pipe connects to both the base and bowl, while the hose itself is attached to the base where the smoke resides.

“It’s part of my Arabian culture,” said Humam Haddadin, a construction management junior. “The hookah, as you call it, is very smooth when smoking and relaxing.”

Hookah bars across the country are becoming a hot spot for young adults who are looking for a new and more interesting way to get together with their friends. Some students like smoking hookahs wherever they go, especially if they head over to the Middle East.

‚ÄúI have never been to a hookah bar in East Lansing,‚Äù Sirlin said. ‚ÄúIt’s something I like to save for when I go to the Middle East for no particular reason.‚Äù

Besides hanging out at the hookah bars, some people own their own. “I do not go to hookah bars often, because I own one at my place,” said physiology sophomore Soud Sediqe. “I go once in a while just because my friends want to.”

Woody’s Oasis Bar and Grill in East Lansing has hookah night every Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. The atmosphere is very relaxed and a bowl of fruity tobacco costs about $8.00. The bowl will last four or five people around 45 minutes.

“It’s something that under-21-year-olds can do at a bar that’s kind of fun and different from anything else,” said Sam Romero, a manager at Woody’s Oasis Bar and Grill.

Clouds of billowing smoke. Hanging out on hookah night at Woody’s Oasis in East Lansing on an early Spring evening. (Alexandra Bahou)

Now, before you get ready for some huffing and puffing, there are some rules about the hookah that everyone should know. With the hookah comes proper hookah etiquette, or as I like to call it: hubbly-bubbliquette. When you are sharing a hookah with others, it is necessary that you always point the hose and mouthpiece down, away from the person you are passing it to. It is also a nice gesture to wipe off the mouthpiece before letting the other group members take a turn. The atmosphere of hookah bars is usually supposed to be soothing, so a subdued personality would fit nicely, as opposed to chanting the MSU fight song and chugging a couple of beers.

Smoking hookahs is by no means right for everyone. It is a strange and interesting custom that is slowly being converged into mainstream American society. ‚ÄúI think they are popular because people love to try something from other cultures, like Mexican or Chinese food, European fashion… that kind of stuff,‚Äù said accounting freshman Oussama Lahmar.

Even though hookah-smoking is continuing as an ongoing trend, users should still be cautious that tobacco could cause health problems in the long run.

“It’s hard to know what is in the tobacco smoke,” said Barbara Conley, a professor in the school of medicine. “Companies put additives into cigarettes and the different filters could alter what exactly is inhaled into the lungs.”

According to a report from the World Health Organization on water pipe smoking: “The smoke that emerges from a water pipe contains numerous toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other diseases.”The World Health Organization also compared cigarette smoking to water pipe smoking and stated that a water pipe smoker is exposed to more smoke as opposed to a cigarette smoker. The reason for this is because people smoke the water pipe tobacco much longer than a normal cigarette.

Both forms of tobacco contain a high source of nicotine. Although many believe that the hookah filters out a lot of the nicotine before inhalation, the World Health Organization report said to be aware that the lesser intensity of nicotine in the hookah smoke could cause people to inhale greater quantities, which could possibly put them at a high risk of health problems.

Despite the health warnings, true hookah fans will continue smoking regardless of the effects. The social aspect, as well as the traditional customs of the hookah, keeps many individuals coming back for more. So, if you‚Äôre just looking for a chill atmosphere with a little bit of mystery, then perhaps a hookah bar would be to your liking. Hubbly, anyone?”

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