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Off the Shelf: BYO hookah

If you can't get enough of that sweet sheesha, you might consider buying your own

 by Kristi Eaton  published on Thursday, March 24, 2005

Business senior Sol Eskinazi and Red Mountain High School senior Amber Militello smoke candy apple hookah at Oasis Cafe.  Eskinazi says his favorite flavor is strawberry./issues/arts/692517
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Business senior Sol Eskinazi and Red Mountain High School senior Amber Militello smoke candy apple hookah at Oasis Cafe. Eskinazi says his favorite flavor is strawberry.
 

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It's a Tuesday night and Arabic music fills King Tut's Hookah Lounge in Tempe.

Smoke saturates the air as students huddle around hookahs, large water pipes that filter flavored tobacco. Laughter rings throughout the lounge from one booth to another.

For some hookah smokers, this is the ideal environment to have a good time and relax with ma'assell, Arabic for tobacco mixed with sugar syrup and fruit extract. Ma'assell comes in flavors including mango, coconut, raspberry, cappuccino and strawberry.

While some say smoking from a hookah isn't dangerous, ma'assell is tobacco, and smoking it on a daily basis has been proven to be harmful to the lungs. Nevertheless, its use remains popular and continues to spread to more and more businesses, including Mill's End Espresso in downtown Tempe.

Hookahs also are becoming more known to college students, some of whom bring their own to parties, where people crowd around the pipes waiting their turn. And if anyone cuts in line, watch out -- nobody loses track of his or her place in line and won't hesitate to wrestle the pipe out of the cutter's hand.

But smokers who just can't get enough of hookah and can't afford nightly outings to hookah bars or don't want to wait in line, buying a personal hookah would save time, and in the long run, money. The reason many smokers don't spring for a hookah, also known as sheesha, is that they don't know where to start or how to manage the intricate pipe, which ranges in size from 1 foot to 3 feet tall.

At King Tut's, one of several Tempe lounges frequented by ASU students, one corner of the establishment is used solely for displaying and selling hookahs and their parts. Pipes of all sizes hang from the wall while the hookahs stand beside one another. A few resemble trophies that children get after winning a game, but all have distinct qualities that make them unique.

Magda Kassel, the owner and manager of King Tut's, says the "Cadillac of the hookah" sells for $150. Others sell for as little as $40.

Electrical engineering freshman Matt Miraldi says his second hookah came from King Tut's and that he loves owning his own.

He bought his first hookah online last semester; his second was given to him by a friend for his birthday a month ago.

Miraldi says owning his own hookah is convenient.

"I smoke about every other day, so being able to smoke wherever is important," he says.

Miraldi looked at the size-to-price ratio when researching what type of hookah to buy. The hookah he bought online was $120.

Pre-business sophomore Kari Shekerjian also is a regular hookah smoker. She began smoking her senior year of high school and, like Miraldi, she smokes at least every other day. Shekerjian says buying a hookah is a good idea if someone wants to use it on a regular basis.

She also believes it is a good social activity.

"It's a lot of fun when done with your friends," she says. "My friends and I sit around my house and do it."

Shekerjian owns a smaller hookah that she bought from Oasis Cafe, located just across the street from King Tut's on Apache Boulevard. She opted to buy a small one because she felt some of the larger ones gave off the impression that "they had just got off the boat."

Since Kassel opened King Tut's eight years ago, she says business has boomed.

"Before [King Tut's], there were no hookah lounges," she says.

Kassel recommends people try smoking a hookah with two or three pipes, with other smokers on the additional pipes.

But Miraldi disagrees, saying, "If you use more than two hoses, you don't get good hits," he says.

A hit is the result of smoking hookah. People often describe the feeling as getting a high, even though it is only tobacco. The high feeling, which sometimes includes dizziness, comes from the large amount of tobacco inhaled in such short periods of time, usually a couple of minutes.

Sam Mousa, the manager at Oasis, doesn't think the amount of hoses causes bad hits, but rather, says not changing the head enough can reduce the high feeling. He recommends changing the head once or twice a year. New heads are available at both Oasis and King Tut's for less than $5.

Mousa also believes basic maintenance is important in achieving good hits.

"You should clean and scrub the hookah, as well as change the water," he says.

Mousa owns a midsized hookah that he bought four years ago. He bought it for only $20, but believes he has been able to keep it for so long because he takes care of it well.

For more information, go to Hookahculture.com/, which explains hookah etiquette, its origins and further advice on buying your own hookah.

Reach the reporter at kristi.eaton@asu.edu.



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