Shisha Water Pipe Smoking in Egypt: Is It Worth Trying?

The Eastern Mediterranean region has used water pipe for centuries for smoking tobacco. The water pipe, which is also known as ‘nargila’, 'hookah’, or ‘hubbly bubbly’, ‘shisha’ was exclusively for the older men and was commonly found in the lower social economic strata. However, with the rise of smoking the use of Shisha water pipes has become a trend amongst the other segments of the society as well.

How does it work?

You might have a misconception that the Shisha water pipes are used for illicit smoking; however, it actually uses perfectly legal tobacco which is available in a number of flavors. The structure has a detachable pipe top that is wrapped in a foil. There are many tiny holes made in the foil and then fixed on the top end of the pipe. There are hot white coals which are placed on it to balance the foil.

Then, it follows a similar principle like that of any other smoking device. The smoker pulls a gasp of the smoke from the mouth piece and pulls in the heat into the tobacco. There is water at the base of the pipe which pulls the smoke and is expected to remove the harshness that weakens the impact.

Are the Shisha water pipes safer than cigarettes?

As it has water in the base, many smokers like to think that it is a safer consumption option than the pack of cigarettes. However, World Health Organization said a single session of smoking Shisha water pipes can be equivalent to more than one pack of cigarettes. Smoking in Egypt is a very common incident and many cafes can be seen using serving water containing filter base smokes.

The false belief has been there for decades that smoking in Egypt through the water pipes is less harmful and it cannot be farther from truth.  However, the smoke has been studied to retain all the carcinogens of a normal cigarette smoke. In fact, apart from the carbon dioxide, the Shisha creates a separate set of carcinogenic particle that is formed from the burning of the coal.

In the 17th century, the Ottomans introduced the use of water pipes. With the popularity of cigarettes, these were mainly relegated to the rural parts. However, there has been resurgence and is now one of the major tourist activities. Unfortunately, many women are also seen to be drawn towards water pipe smoking as this looks fashionable and is thought to be less harmful than cigarettes.

Worth trying?

Once you know the effect, it is entirely up to you whether you want to get involved in this smoking activity or not. However, you will find a lot of cafes and restaurants in the country which offers Shisha of various flavors.

Peer pressure can be a thing and if you are extremely worried about the health effects, and it is wise not to indulge. But being in Egypt and not enjoying this Mediterranean culture may make your trip incomplete.

Ordering a Shisha

Smoking in Egypt through the water pipes can be easily done on cafes or restaurants. Apple flavored Shisha is most commonly found. You can also find the ones that has strawberry, watermelon, orange or coffee flavored tobacco.

•  Wahad shisha tufa min fudluck’ (One apple shisha please)

If you are looking for other flavours, replace the word ‘tufa’ with -

•   ‘Batieth’ - water melon
•   ‘Farawalah’ - strawberry
•   ‘Boutoqal’ - orange

Generally, with the Shisha pipe, they also provide the plastic nozzles which are separate for each individual. To keep the process hygienic, attach this mouthpiece to the pipe and do not smoke from the pipe directly. You need to tick the tobacco aggressively and then smoke at a relaxed pace. In most of the cafes, the waiter will burn it before handing it to you. It may take an hour to complete the entire smoke. You can either request the waiter to add some more coals or if you are in a sophisticated establishment, they will do it before you need to call.  You can smoke Shisha on your own or can also enjoy with the company. Shisha cafes are ubiquitous all across the country and you might find people often sitting in a sea front in Alexandria or in Aswan near the Nile river bank and enjoying a smoke.

Facts you cannot miss about authentic Egyptian hookah

•  Egypt has always admired water pipes or hookah. The entire Middle East look at the Egyptian hookah with reverence.

•  An authentic Egyptian hookah will be a handmade product which uses the conventional methods of the century old practices. The base of such water pipe or hookah will be a hand blown colored glass that are available in a number of shades and shapes with hand painted designs.

•  The shafts are also hand formed and can be made of steel, brass or chrome plated brass.

•  The modern hookahs are made from machine molds and not have colored glasses.

•  Porcelain is mostly used instead of the standard clay bowl.

‘Shisha’, the word that has been used so many times, is a Persian word which means glass. The history of Hookah invention is lost in centuries. In fact, archaeologists have found similar structures in mountains of Southern Africa and Afghanistan which dates back almost 8,000 years ago. The tradition of smoke inhalation as been there for centuries and was an attribute of leisurely timepass. As the civilization grew and trade relations developed, countries of north of Persia, Ethiopia, Turkey and Arabia spread the tradition of water pipe smoking all across the globe.


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