Hookah. Just the word is evocative. Wizened Arabs smoking in a small café on a quiet street in the bazaar. Fierce Turkish warriors plotting military strategy as they smoke in the court of the Pasha. The steady bubbling sounds as men draw heavily on the pipe. The sweet smoke spiraling upward toward heaven. “Who are you?” Puffs the Caterpillar, who regally sits on a mushroom, in Alice in Wonderland.
“Hmmmm.” I thought as my son slowly tried to talk me into trying it. “It’s nothing like you imagine,” He explained. Being an ex-smoker, I loathe tobacco. I think of the many times I tried to quit. Acupuncture, hypnosis, cold turkey, patches, gum. The list is endless. Finally after many unsuccessful times, I finally did it. Eleven years free of that vile disgusting habit, I’m not interested in anything that will tempt me back into tobacco’s wicked clutches.
“But this is different,” he says. With great reluctance, I agree to look into it. So I go on-line to check out this phenomenon. Well, hookah bars and lounges are springing up all over the place. It is very popular with the younger crowd, as witnessed by my son’s fascination with it, as well as those who have traditionally used them, such as Arabs, Indians and Turks. The tobacco is flavored and smoked through a long water pipe. A piece of charcoal is put on top of the tobacco to keep it burning.
Healthy, it ain’t. Although the jury is still out about the effects of smoking a hookah, it’s still tobacco you are smoking and tobacco is not known for being good for you. The water is supposed to filter out all of tobacco’s evil components but I suspect it’s just a marketing ploy.
With all of that in mind I found a hookah lounge, 1001 Arabian Nights, in West Hartford. I dragooned a friend of mine, telling him we are going on a road trip. We arrive and he looks at me as if I’m crazy. We walk in and are greeted by George the owner. I explain that we are here for the first time. Hookah virgins so to speak. He gives us a menu with the different tobaccos and flavors. Vanilla, cappuccino, mint, watermelon, etc. He tells us we can mix and match. We settle on peach-mango. George explains that you gently draw the smoke in and not hold it in like a bong. What’s a bong? Anyway, we walk into a dimly lit room that smelled incredibly aromatic. Middle Eastern music is playing in the background. There are comfortable couches, pillows, and tables are scattered around. A few couples are smoking, chatting, and taking pictures of themselves, no doubt to be uploaded to Facebook. Finally the moment arrives. George places the hookah on the table, gives us a few disposable plastic mouthpieces and smiles. We are on our own. I take the hose and draw in a mouthful of smoke. Whoa! That was delicious. It was peachy and mango-y. I take a few more puffs and then reluctantly give it to my friend. He draws it in and then smiles. This is absolutely amazing. No rush to the head, no coughing, no dizziness, no queasy feeling. Back and forth we pass the hose, chatting about music, sports, politics and life. Time leisurely passes; people come and go, George adds more charcoal to the hookah to keep it burning. After an hour and a half we decide to throw in the hose.
All in all it was pretty cool. My chest wasn’t heavy, I didn’t get a buzz, my clothes smelled of peach-mango, but a quick wash and dry cured that. I have since gone back one more time with another friend and had an equally enjoyable time. Honey-vanilla was rather tasty as well. I don’t plan on having this go into my rotation of cool things to do, but once in while, it’s a pretty fun thing to do. Two hoses up!