Monday, July 7, 2008


My life isn’t full of novel episodes. Friends say I’m adventurous but that is in relation to their sedentary lifestyle. Truth is, I am pretty consistent, but every now and then, I break the chain of routine to do something new. Two weekends ago, after watching Angelina Jolie’s new action flick, “Wanted”, I felt I was ready for a new experience.
After dinner, a friend and I strolled around Greenbelt to burn-off calories. I noticed some Arab-looking patrons in Café Havana smoking through a hose attached to a glass vase. I remember an episode of “Pinoy Meets World” a few months ago, the show host, Paolo Bediones, traveled to Turkey and featured this water pipe called Hookah or Shisha. A Hookah operates by water filtration and indirect heat. From the first time I saw hookah, I’ve been curious about it but was a bit shy of trying it in an expat-filled Café Havana.
hookah, also called shisha, sheesha
At Bollywood, an Indian bistro on the 3rd floor of Greenbelt 3, I learned from the waiter that their shisha doesn’t contain tobacco but herbal fruits like mint, strawberry, orange, I decided to try mint. They charge P370 an hour. If you had seen us smoking hookah that Saturday night, you’d think that we were smoking marijuana! Haha! We were laughing like a pair of escapee from a mental asylum because we couldn’t get smoke out from the hose. The two ladies sitting in another table asked us “kung may tama ba?” Haha! Walang s’yang tama but we kept on giggling like schoolgirls. It took us a few minutes, and some coaching from our next table neighbor before we exhaled smoke. It was a pleasant experience, the mint flavor was also made me hungry!:-D
G exhaling her first smoke
Hookah (a.k.a. shisha, or sheesha) has mysterious origins. It is quintessential in Arab culture, but strangely enough, the hookah is believed to have originated in India, and another version traces its origins in China. Under the British rule, opium from India was smuggled into China and was smoked through the hookah which consequently became a symbol of luxury and affluence. It gained popularity in Turkey particularly under the Ottoman Empire where its contemporary shape also evolved 500 years ago. Smoking hookah (called narghile in Turkey) symbolizes familial conviviality, serenity and harmony.
I love the design of hookah. The glass vase reminds me of my lola’s antique glass lamps, the silver slender stem gives it elegance---it’s a beautiful piece of work.

Some smokers believe that the water used in hookah makes the tobacco less toxic. But experts say it’s a myth---tobacco smoked through hookah is no less toxic than tobacco from cigarettes. Even after passing through water, tobacco smoke still contains high levels of toxic compounds, according to WHO. In Egypt, doctors believe that the smoking of the traditional hookah is increasingly emerging as a significant health risk, due to air-borne tuberculosis transmission from pipe sharing and uncontrolled manual preparation of the pipe. After reading this article, my desire for a repeat suddenly vanished. Although the mouthpiece we used was wrapped in foil, I couldn’t help but think of bacteria that may reside in the tube. Oh well, at least now I can say that I’ve tried it.
To digress a little, beginning July 1st, cigarette advertisements are banned on TV, radio and print in accordance with the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 or Republic Act No. 9211. The total ad ban on cigarettes would be a tremendous help to health advocates who are working to discourage teenagers and young adults from smoking. I hope young smokers would think twice before making Hookah an option to cigarette smoking---think of TB, kids!
moi and my first hookah
G was really getting good at it!


Anonymous said...

LOL. What an adventure!

But if hookah is harmful (and we ban cigarette ads here which is less harmful than hookah) then with more reason that authorities should prohibit a public place from doing business with hookah.

Try again? Nah, once is enough ... if you ask me.

Unknown said...

Hello, bugsybee! I don't know if the hookah at Cafe Havana has Bollywood, they're only offering non-tobacco based 'flavor'. But yes, even with non-tobacco based flavor, smoking hookah could be a significant TB-risk. You're right, once is enough.:D

Thanks for droppin' by.

Voz do meu Coração said...

Their photos are spectacular, everything is beautiful and the colors wonderful, extraordinary picture of the sky blog, congratulations.

Panaderos said...

Wow. That was cooool, man! Heavy! :D

Your "hookah" session seemed like it was a scene out of the drug-filled days of the 60s.

I'm glad you had fun but you're right, just thinking about the TB risks associated with it takes the fun out of the whole thing.

Photo Cache said...

Nice to try something once, check it off one's list. The experience of that one try might last you a lifetime.

nutart said...

Well, for me anythind done in extremes create something negative.
It is also good news that the advertising world is now guided not to produce cigarette ads. Malaking pera usually ito! Wonder how they will get around this one.
One of my cousins is in the final stages of lung cancer. Of course, chain-smoker siya...hope my other relatives learn a strong lesson from him!

Thanks for the hookah info, Luna! The hookah is one luxury conversation pieces I would like in my house aside from a nice vintage jukebox!...and a barber chair.

Señor Enrique said...

Opium, too? All along I thought it was used mainly with hashish.

Sup with all these smoking joints in Greenbelt?

Unknown said...

Hola, voz du meo coracao! Appreciate your visit.:)

Unknown said...

It was awesome, man! Simply fab! waaahahahaha Di bagay sa akin! Mukha nga kaming addicts (hehehe).

I read articles about hookah after trying it...kaya too late the hero! I hope I didn't catch any germs.:D Thanks for visiting, Panaderos.

Unknown said...

Welcome back, photo cache! Yes, it's now off from 'my 50 things to do in my lifetime' list (hehe).

Unknown said...

Hi, Bernadette! The total ban on cigarette advertisement is going to be a tough battle for local gov't units and DOH. Tobacco companies have the money to burn. The law should impose stiffer fines to scare the tobacco industry. One of my closest friends died from lung cancer 2 years ago. Reason ng smokers, mamamatay pa rin daw kahit di magyoyosi.:D

Actually, after reading articles about hookah, I thought of buying one for's safer and yes, a great conversation piece. Pareho pala tayo ng dream (hehe), a vintage jukebox! I also want an antique phonograph.:D

Unknown said...

From all countries with hookah smokers, it was only in China where opium was mentioned. For the rest, it's either tobacco, cannabis or herbal fruits. I'm not sure if Cafe Havana uses tobacco, but I think they do. I usually sit near a table with hookah smokers because I love the it's probably tobacco.:D

Have you tried it, Eric?

Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Shisha is so common where we are temporarily based yet, because of the very conservative environment, it's only the men who are allowed to try it. I heard from our guy friends that they even let you choose which flavor you'd want to add into the water. Truly a very "culturally-enriching" experience!

Though, if you ask me, I'd much rather have the shisha as a decorative item in the house - like a lamp base, perhaps! :)

And it's also called a hookah pala ha! Thanks for this additional bit of info! ;)

Unknown said...

I've read that hookah is usually the 'attraction' at cafes in Arab countries. I hope you can buy one as your home decor.:)

Thanks for visiting again, Pinky.