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How to Set Up and Smoke a Hookah

Updated on January 3, 2012

Intro to Hookah

Hookah originates from the India and the Middle East. It is used to smoke shisha, which is a blend of tobacco, fruit, honey, and molasses. Shisha comes in many different flavors and contains no tar, which makes it the safest form of tobacco smoke and, as an added bonus, won't make your clothes smell like smoke. Hookah is great for social get togethers and parties. Nothing's better than smoking hookah with your friends for a few hours and swapping stories.

1. Preparing the Base

The base of the hookah holds the water and is meant to cool the smoke that you subsequently breathe in. A tube from the neck of the hookah will dip into the base. In order to really cool down the smoke, put ice in the base of the hookah, covering the entire bottom of the base. Then add cold water up to the point at which about a half inch of the tube is submerged.

2. Packing the Bowl

Packing the bowl of a hookah is an art. It requires a bit of experience to really get it right. Keep the shisha light; don't pack it down into the bowl. Also, fill the shisha up to the top of the bowl, but not so that it is higher than the lip of the bowl itself. A bowl will typically last a one hour smoking session with two to three people. Make sure not to drop the bowl, as it is usually made of ceramic, and thus is very brittle.

A very nicely packed bowl, if I don't say so myself.
A very nicely packed bowl, if I don't say so myself.

3. SeaIing the Bowl

Make a square section of heavy duty aluminum foil, or two layers of light aluminum foil, and wrap it around the bowl so the top is taut and flat. Then poke as many holes as you see fit in the top with a toothpick. Hookah's work the best with tiny holes, and as many of them as possible.

4. Lighting the Coal

You can light the coal with your gas stove, or a propane torch. You can also split the coal into two pieces in order to get a more even heat distribution on the bowl. The coal is necessary to heating up the shisha to get the smoke pumping, so to speak. Once the coal is lit, put the hose into the hookah, and start breathing in to get the air rushing past the coal and shisha. This is basically 'priming' the hookah.


Hookah is not only great for sitting around and talking with friends, but it can give you quite a buzz. Once you get used to the smoke, try to hold the smoke in as long as possible. Also, try smoke bubbles and rings and amaze you friends!


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