Hookah (shisha) Setup and Use for Beginners
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Hookah (shisha) Setup and Use for Beginners

?If you're reading this, chances are you have just acquired a hookah! So, let me begin by welcoming you to the  art and practice of smoking a water pipe. Unlike any other form of tobacco use, our intent will NOT be to burn the tobacco itself. In fact, if we burn the tobacco then we have actually failed in our goal of properly smoking the hookah. The "smoke" that comes out of a hookah is in fact vaporized glycerin, flavoring and sweetener that coats the shisha (the tobacco) itself. Please see my other factoidz on the specifics of this and proper bowl packing method, as well as heat management. This article will focus on the physical setup and cleaning of the pipe itself.

For the purposes of this factoid, I will assume you have just ordered your hookah and taken the various pieces out of the box. Lets first learn the proper names of these pieces.

1. Bowl- This holds the shisha and comes in a variety of materials and designs. (this will be discussed more in depth in an article on bowls and packing of shisha)

2. Bowl Grommet- Ensures an air tight seal between the stem and the bowl, proper seals are very important.

3. Ashtray- Works as a place to both ash your coals as they need it as well as a catch in case they fall from the bowl.

4. Stem- These have the obvious function of channeling the smoke from the bowl into the base and also serve a decorative purpose usually.

5. Base Grommet- Ensures a proper seal between the stem and the base, must be air tight for proper smoking.

6. Hose Grommet- Seal between the hose and stem/base.

7. Hose- Obvious use, often decorative and come in a variety of sizes, lengths and materials. Traditional hoses are not washable wheras more modern ones can be, check with your manufacturer to see if your hose is washable.

8. Base- The base contains the water used for filtration and is often extremely decorative, bases are all primarily the same although different shapes and bottleneck diameters affect airflow. Wider bottom bases are more stable and I generally recommend them.

* One part that is not labeled in the diagram is the down-stem, it is the piece that connects the stem with the interior of the base and channels the vapor into the water.

After you have assembled your hookah and taken a good look at how everything fits together, (it seems simple of course but please take the time, if only to appreciate how much you like your new pipe!) it's time to do a very thorough cleaning. You will want to do the following as a bare minimum initial cleaning regimen:

  • Blow through the hose, repeatedly. If your hose is washable then take the time and run warm water through it for a few minutes and make sure there is nothing coming out but water. Often times manufacturing leaves a residue on the interior of the hose and it is NOT fun to inhale.
  • If your hookah is stainless steel, run water through the stem and thoroughly wash the base out with ONLY warm water.
  • Wash out your bowl, once again with the potential manufacturing residue as well as the accumulated dust/debris
  • Blow through each piece (Except the base of course!) and allow them time to dry [If your hose is washable, allow more than adequate time for it to dry! A wet hose is not a good thing to pull through]

Once your hookah is thoroughly cleaned, your just a few steps away from your first smoke with it. Take your time though and please continue reading, the most important steps are yet to come!

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