Do you know your hookah and shisha? The two terms show up a lot in smoke shops and lounges around the world. Hookah and shisha are used interchangeably by a lot of folks, while others will tell you flat out that they aren't related. So what's the deal? Where do we stand in the everlong battle of shisha vs. hookah? How can you sound like you know what you're talking about when you go to a hookah lounge in the future? We wrote this nifty article for just the occasion. Learn the difference between hookah and shisha and sound like the sophisticated smoker you've always wanted to be.
What Is a Hookah?
In common parlance, hookah is a word used to describe a kind of oriental tobacco water pipe. It is derived from the Arabic word "hookah" which means "casket" or "jar." A hookah has at least one long, flexible tube connected to a stem. A smoker will draw smoke through the body of the pipe and into a water bowl. The smoke is then drawn through the tube and inhaled by the smoker. Pretty simple right? Hookah has a lengthy history in many cultures from the Indian subcontinent to areas like Serbia, Bosnia, Turkey and Greece.
It is common for a hookah to have multiple stems and tubes for communal smoking. Hookah lounges are very popular destinations for casual hangouts among many diverse groups of people. Major cities will have multiple hookah lounges situated around the metro. Here in the ATL, there are over two dozen hookah bars for smokers and enthusiasts to visit.
What Is Shisha?
Shisha most commonly refers to the tobacco that you smoke with a hookah pipe. Traditionally, the tobacco is soaked in different flavored juices for extended periods of time to infuse it with flavor. Many companies specialize in making shisha, and there are many different flavors available to choose from. Some of the more common ones are mint, cherry and strawberry — all pretty standard. Some hookah lounges curate their own flavors and come up with wild combinations, mixing stuff that will blow your mind into next week and back — these flavor combos always have names like Rainbow Explosion or Sckittles Crush. The tobacco is placed inside of a bowl at the top of the hookah where it is heated with coals. You draw the smoke through the water and take in that tasty smoke, exhaling huge clouds and feeling good about life.
So What Is the Difference Between Hookah and Shisha?
Here's where people get confused with hookah and shisha. In some cultures, shisha is like a whole holistic process. It refers not just to the tobacco, but to the body of the pipe itself. For some people, shisha is the tobacco, neck, stem, gasket and water bowl, and hookah is just the tube that you smoke with. Sounds wild right? The truth is, many different cultures have historically used water pipes for smoking tobacco and other herbs. The Persian term for a glass bowl is shishe, and so the term became synonymous with a water pipe since they are typically made of glass.
In the battle between hookah vs. shisha, the truth is that it's a little bit of both. If you referred to a hookah as a shisha, you wouldn't be wrong. In English-speaking countries though, hookah is a loanword from Arabic that refers to the whole apparatus: bowl, stem, pipes, tubes and everything in between. We commonly use hookah because that's the word we learned for it when this style of water pipe was first encountered. You'll also hear people say they're "smoking hookah" when referring to the act itself, even though shisha is the loanword that refers to the tobacco you smoke. But in some cultures, "shisha" does also refer to the pipe. Check this out: shisha also refers to a kind of embroidery. It's got crazy versatility.
So if you are looking at a water pipe and thinking, "hookah or shisha?" just remember that either is correct, and the real thing to do is to simply kick up your feet, put on some coals and enjoy some of that sweet, flavorful tobacco. And if someone tries to correct you? Now you can stunt on them with knowledge.
Get Your Own Hookah and Shisha From Free Smoke
Put the shisha vs. hookah debate to rest and chill out with your very own water pipe. We have multiple hookahs and hookah accessories in different styles and size profiles so you can find the right hookah (or shisha) to fit your style. Bring the joy of smoking a hookah into your own home and browse our selection of shisha to find just the right flavor for you.