Friday, January 27, 2012

Buying Guide to Hookahs For Beginners

Nargiile, Water pipe,  Shisha, or Hookah It goes by many different names, and is becoming more popular and well known through the world. Maybe you smoked at a friend’s house or a lounge.  All you know now is that you want one of your own. But where to start? Where should you buy one, what is the difference in types, how much money should you spend, what kind of tobacco should you get? All of these are reasonable questions, so I will break each area down.

Types of Hookahs: We are quick to judge a pipe based off of its price in the local smoke shop and the looks of it. That however, is the first big “no-no” when picking out your pipe.  While how a pipe looks can and will determine its value, it will not affect the life of the hookah or its performance. Here is a breakdown of common pipe types.

Egyptian: Egyptian pipes are some of the more common quality pipes. They are available in high quantity in both brand name and generic styles. Egyptian pipes are characterized by tall thin purge valves, and welded on hose ports. Modern Egyptian hookahs use standard female bowls. The wider the draw on an Egyptian hookah the better, allowing for a smooth easy pull. They are most commonly made from stainless steel, but can also come in tri-metal or quad-metal varieties including materials such as copper, brass, and nickel.  Popular and well-made brands include Khalil Mamoon,  Nammor, Farida and Temsaah. These can come with a variety of different hose types, and commonly include a standard glazed Egyptian clay bowl. They are also usually in once solid piece as opposed to some hookahs that screw together.

Chinese: One of the more controversial types of hookahs. Chinese hookahs are commonly modeled after Egyptian pipes, but many are generic, low quality pieces that do not smoke well and will rust in a short time frame. Many local smoke shops will carry these, so beware. They typically have a circular purge valves and screw on hose ports. They will have “open hearts” also known as “Open Chamber” stems, which can be a rust issue as well. Some will smoke better than others, but the main issue is quality and how long they will last before rusting. However, not all Chinese hookahs are bad pipes. MYA hookahs are Chinese and some of the best pipes available, ones that will last as long as any other and smoke like champs. They can come in all shapes and sizes, and are also liked because of their portability, as even larger models can be collapsed. They are almost always made out of stainless steel and have smaller diameter down stem then their Egyptian brethren.

Syrian: While the goal of an Egyptian hookah is to have an easy wide-open draw, it is the opposite for a Syrian. Quality Syrian pieces will have a small amount of pull to them with a narrow downs tem. Some smokers enjoy this feeling, as they know they are actually smoking. Syrian pipes can have either closed or open hearts/chambers, they have smaller hose ports and purge valves, and can be much more intricate in design than other styles of pipes. They can be a little harder or expensive to own, but are not too much of a challenge. They can be made from multiple different materials, but very commonly will be Brass. Popular brands to look for are Nour or Al Nawras.

Turkish: The closest you can come to a “professional” pipe in the west side of the world comes to the Turkish.  They are the “rarest” style of nargile in the west; just due to the lengths and costs it takes to bring them over. At this current time, there are no Northern American vendors that carry real Turkish hookahs. Turkish hookahs will be solid brass, and have very detailed designs either cast into them or engraved into them. Two big things to look for to determine if your Hookah is a real Turkish are the lack of a purge valve, and a female bowl port. Instead of the common “spike” design, there will be a circular whole that a bowl will rest in. These bowls are also not easily found in the US, and Turkish hookahs are the few that still use them. These bowls will also commonly be unglazed clay. Turkish hookahs also come with their own unique wind covers, as well as Turkish hoses, but more on that later. I earlier referred to them as “professional pipes” due to their cost, as well as the lack of purge valve. If you over heat your tobacco for too long, your entire session will be over, so you really need to know how to manage what you are smoking before you use a Turkish, or you will waste a lot of tobacco and time.  The most common brand of Turkish Hookah in the west is Elmas, meaning Diamond. Out of all the generic styles, you would also be the safest with a generic Turkish Hookah if you end up with one.


Egyptian: Khalil Mamoon, Nammor, Farida, Temsaah. Wide draw
Chinese: MYA. Anything else is a risk.
Syrian: Nour or Al Nawras. Narrow Draw
Turkish: Elmas, Narrow Draw, Turkish Hoses, Male Bowls No Purge Valve.

Where to Buy:

Like I touched on early most people will want to buy their hookah at a tobacco or head shop but usually this is a mistake. Most shops like these only sell Chinese or MYA hookahs. The other problem is even though MYA hookahs aren’t bad these shops will charge you an arm and a leg for them under the guise of “These are deluxe” or some similar tag line.
So where am I supposed to buy then? The best place to get all things hookah unless you are lucky and have a very good Arab market near you is the Internet. Personally I swear by They have one of the largest selections online and their customer support is top notch. They are also the creators of Nammor hookahs, which are some of the best “bang for your buck” hookahs you can get. For a beginner, I really recommend a Nammor package. You will get a quality hookah that smokes well, as well as a quality washable hose.

Other Sites:

Article By: Jimmy Bishop & Zach Marselle


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  3. Some modern hookahs have come out with improved designs. One of the innovations is an improved check valve system on multiple hose models. These check release valves are designed with ball bearings inside them. The result is a multiple hose hookah that can be smoked without the need to plug every hose that is not in use, a cumbersome issue with traditional hookahs and some modern hookahs still today.


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