Shisha: The Trend and Anatomy

A friend of mine opened up a café (Earth Café). I have been to the place quite a few times. Last night, while at the café, he asked me to try one of his new Shisha flavors. Not a Shisha enthusiast, I told him I’d pass. He insisted and ordered two of the most amazing Shishas I have ever tried. One of them used a whole watermelon as the pipe stem (the middle part) and another used an apple as the chillum (the bowl part that holds tobacco).  I tried the Shishas and boy was I amazed by the flavor. I kept thinking about the ever-growing café culture and the strong association of Shisha with it. Shisha’s are smoked throughout the world. The first Shisha I ever had was back when I went to Dubai on a recreational trip. Its been over a decade. Then Shisha’s started showing up at every corner in Pakistan. I went to the United States for my studies and I remember sitting in the parking lots, of my school, smoking Shisha with my fellows. There were so many Shisha bars throughout the city. After returning from the States, I noticed Shisha was “THE THING” in my home country. Almost every household that could afford one had a Shisha. My younger brother bought one too. Shisha became a part of the daily life in many houses across the nation. It is still a socially accepted form of tobacco consumption.

Anatomy of a Shisha

A Shisha, or Hookah is a multi-stemmed instrument for smoking which uses water to cool and Purify the smoke.  A shisha has three basic parts, The Base, the Pipe Stem and the Chillum(Clay Bowl (Pyrex)  to hold the Tobacco)


Base Bottle (Vase): This is the water container. The standard base is water but I have seen people use milk (a pathetic waste), red bull, carbonated and other drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). The base purifies and cools the smoke giving it a mellow taste. It is essential for the water or drink in the base to be cold. Different bases add to the flavor and mellowness of the smoke.

Watermelon Used as Pipe Stem

Pipe Stem: This connects the base bottle and the clay bowl which holds the tobacco. The pipe stem is sealed, using rubber and plastic collars, with the upper and lower part to make sure smoke doesn’t escape. The Shisha Hose (Hookah Hose) is attached to the middle of the pipe stem through a hose grommet or the closed eyelet connection. The hose is usually made of ribbed rubber and the ends are made of wood. One end fits into the Shisha socket and the other has a small handle and metal mouthpiece. Disposable mouth pieces are attached, different for each smoker, to the metal mouthpiece and used for smoking.  At the other side of this socket is an air valve which blows out smoke when you blow into the pipe. Also, the air valve adjusts the strength of smoke you take in. it can be loosened to mix some air as to dilute the smoke. This is a special feature not available in all shishas.


There is a pipe tray (coal tray) at the upper end of the pipe stem. This serves as a resting place for the tongs (used to handle coal) and other stuff you may need while using the Shisha. It also prevents the ash from the coals on top to fall below. One of the Shishas I had at my friend’s café made use of a watermelon as a stem pipe. The hookah hose was fixed into the watermelon. There was a metal container under it, serving as the base bottle and the chillum was inserted into the top of the watermelon. He said that slightly elongated, egg shaped watermelons were ideal to be used as pipe stems. It greatly adds to the flavor of the Shisha. I could practically taste the watermelon. It was funny because I had read about some Viagra like effects of the watermelon a few days ago. Smoking made me wonder if I was actually improving my libido and allowing myself to benefit from smoking as opposed to the theory of smoking leading to impotency.

How Shisha Works

The Chillum (Clay Bowl): The chillum is where the tobacco goes. Tobacco is placed into the chillum in a slightly loose way. The tobacco should not be tightly packed or it makes the smoke very strong. Loose packing of the tobacco also allows for the burn to be smooth. The chillum is covered with aluminum foil. Tiny holes are made into this foil to allow for the heat to reach the tobacco directly. There are several different ways and methods to set up the chillum. Some people prefer the single aluminum foil method while others prefer double foiling by putting a half inch metal ring between two layers of pierced aluminum foils to cover the chillum. Burning coals are put on the aluminum foil. It takes a few puffs to start the Shisha. Last night I tried a Shisha that makes use of an apple, instead of the clay bowl, as a Chillum. I don’t know how they did it but the flavor was amazing and the effect of the tobacco was enhanced. I could also taste the apple in the smoke.




Shishas are available in various different sizes and colors. In fact I saw a few themed Shishas somewhere. The Shisha smoking trend is on the rise as more and more people become fans of this device which offers different flavors and aromas of tobacco, making the smoking experience much more specialized and enjoyable.


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