One of the most rewarding aspects of travel is partaking in unique customs of your destination. In Abu Dhabi, one very pleasurable pastime is smoking a shisha. A shisha pipe is also known around the world as a hookah, waterpipe or “bong” (by those that may have dabbled in some previous extralegal campus activities).
While the device may look like it would guarantee you a couple of years hard time at the Graybar Hotel in most western countries as drug paraphernalia, there is no explanation required here in Abu Dhabi! After all, it is what is smoked that is important. A special concoction appropriately named shisha tobacco is used.
Before the tobacco-phobes get all worked up, an explanation is order. This is an ancient recipe of India and the Middle East that consists of tobacco specially prepared, mixed in molasses and marinated in a rainbow of flavors. The most popular is apple but one can select other flavors such as grape, honey, melon, cinnamon, banana, champagne and even chocolate. Non tobacco herbal blends are available as well. The emphasis is on the flavors which are experienced in a new way, not the tobacco which is just the media. What results is a cool, mild, moist smoke which is passed through the water in the bowl.
During the day, visitors will notice Arab men and women outside of coffee shops chatting and enjoying their shisha in the afternoons. This is a centuries old tradition is a way to relax during the warmest part of the day. If you wish to try it, grab a table and ask the server for a shisha and decide on a flavor. You will be brought out a shisha pipe already hot and ready to go. The hoses have removable tips that are renewed for each customer. You can request a multihose pipe or you can just pass a single hose around among your best friends just like you did in college! Another popular time for shisha is after dinner with drinks. Most tourist resorts provide this service.
Even if you don’t smoke you are in for a pleasant, relaxing, tasty and social experience. Everyone does it and as the saying goes, “When in Rome!”.