Tag Archives: tobacco

What’s In a Name?

Many of us in the United States have come to know the waterpipe we smoke as a “hookah”, but the name can vary depending on where in the world you may be (or even just your cultural surroundings).  If you are really curious about the origins of all the different names and how terms are used throughout the globe I suggest setting some time aside to read up a bit and educate yourself.  By no means am I an expert on the etymology of the words and phrases used, but I would like to share with you all a basic understanding of the word “hookah”.

What does it mean?  Where did it come from?  Why were you shown waterpipes by the clerk in the store when you asked to see shisha?

Lets start with what we all know: hookah.

Hookah – The common term used in the United States when referring to a waterpipe used to smoke tobacco (or shisha).  For the most part you can get away with using this word throughout the US and have people understand what you are talking about.

Narjilah/Nargileh – Another name for the waterpipe commonly used in countries like Syria, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine.  

Qalyān – Used to refer to a waterpipe in Iran, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Shisha – Commonly used to refer to the tobacco smokes out of the hookah.  However, there can be some confusion when using this word as it has a different meaning in other cultures.  Often spelled “Sheesha”, this term is used to refer to the pipe itself, and NOT the tobacco smoked out of it (common in Egypt and other counties in the Arab Peninsula).  This can be good to know when going into authentic smoke shops since the shop owner may confuse your inquiry about tobacco for a waterpipe instead (happened to me recently on my trip to North Carolina.  I asked the shop owner where he kept the shisha and he pointed me to the waterpipes).  

Mu’assel – Arabic name for the tobacco/molasses/honey/glycerin mixture we all love to smoke in our waterpipes.  Also known as “shisha“.

These are just a few of the various names, but you get the point.  Be mindful of where you are and who you are with when using certain terms.  While using the wrong term will not get you in trouble, you may get some funny looks from people if you say you “smoke shisha in your hookah”.


How To: Homemade Shisha

Greetings fellow hookah smokers!  Today I will be showing you my own little recipe for homemade shisha.  After smoking for many years I finally decided to experiment a bit with my own blend, hoping to get a good smoke out of it so as to create some wild flavors down the road (garlic, BBQ, and bacon to name a few I will be trying later on).  Many of you may be thinking “Ewwww, Garlic shisha?!” right about now.  While it may sound weird, we wont know that until the time comes for me to make it.

Anyway, enough talk about obscure flavors for a bit.  What I am here to talk about it not obscure at all, but a homemade clove shisha that I made a little while back.  After scouring the internet for a recipe that I liked, I settled on one by Ezxen over at hookahforum.com (I highly recommend this site for anyone getting into hookah, or who already smokes).  I ended up having to modify the recipe a little since my shisha turned out a bit dry the first shot, but overall I am impressed with the outcome.  I packed the bowl just like I would pack Al Fakher (light and fluffy), lit up a coal and smoked it.  The result?  White fluffy clouds, a hint of clove, and a nice cooling sensation caused by the clove.

Continue reading for the recipe I used (modified version of Ezxen’s) as well as a step by step with pictures.  Enjoy!

Shisha Recipe

Ingredients (with Ezxen’s ratios):

  • American Spirit Red Natural Rolling Tobacco (40%)
  • Molasses/Honey (20%)
  • Vegetable Glycerin (20%)
  • Ground Cloves (20%)

Modified Ratio’s

  • Tobacco (36%)
  • Molasses/Honey (23%)
  • Vegetable Glycerin (23%)
  • Ground Cloves(18%)


  1. Wash the tobacco.  This will remove some of the nicotine as well as the tobacco taste, allowing for the flavor of whatever you are adding to come out.  I boiled the tobacco 3 times  for 5 min, or until the water was almost clear.

  2. Squeeze the water out of the tobacco and let the it dry.  You can either use the oven for this (spread out the tobacco on a cookie sheet and bake @ 200 degrees), or just spread it out thin on a paper towel and let it air dry (this is what I did).

  3. While the tobacco is drying, prepare your wet ingredients in a dish.

  4. Once the tobacco is dry, put it in a container and add the dry ingredients (in this case, the ground clove).  Mix thoroughly.  If you are using a liquid flavoring, then you can skip this step as you would have added the flavoring in the previous step.

  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly.  Make sure to coat EVERYTHING.  You don’t want any dry tobacco in there (This is where I modified the ratios.  With the original ratios I found the tobacco to be too dry, so I added an extra teaspoon of molasses/honey and an extra teaspoon of glycerin).

  6. Once everything is mixed, put it in an airtight container and let it sit.  The longer the better for this step of the process (mine sat for a couple days, but you can wait as little as 6-12 hours if you are really anxious to try it)

  7. Now you are ready to smoke!  Pack a bowl and taste your very own shisha.