Smoking hookah is more than simply smoking. It’s an encompassing experience derived from your surrounding environment, the hookah you’re enjoying and your interactions with the people around you. A big part of sharing this experience with other people is observing proper hookah smoking etiquette. Following these rules is a sign that you respect the tradition and the people with whom you’re smoking. They range from arbitrary and obscure to common sense, so let’s start simple with some courtesy that should be standard whether you’re in the Middle East or the middle of Los Angeles.

Hookah Smoking Etiquette

Pass the Hose

Don’t hug the hookah. Even if you’re the owner and set everything up it is rude to keep it for your enjoyment alone. Pass the hose and offer it to the room and don’t exclude anyone. If you are nervous about germs then get some disposable mouth tips or use a hose with a removable mouthpiece so you can keep one for yourself. That’s what I do with people I don’t know. I also always keep a few good mouth tips in my jacket pocket for when I go to lounges or other people’s houses. Hookah is supposed to be about community and interaction. Don’t be rude.

Keep the Pace up

I don’t mean that you should take half a draw from the hookah and play hot potato with the hose.  You should enjoy yourself and take time to enjoy the smoke but then pass the hose to the next person in a timely manner. If everyone smokes at a reasonable pace it’s going to get back to you and give you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the session.

Don’t Drool

I don’t even want to talk about this one in too much depth. Please don’t drool on the hose. Your drool will get in the hose. That drool will then get in the next person’s mouth. Gross.

Don’t Let the Hose Touch the Ground

This should be pretty self explanatory, but don’t let the mouthpiece touch the ground.  The length of those hose is fine.  It’s going to happen.  But the part that you and your friends are going to put in your mouths should not contact the floor.

Don’t break the rotation:

A rotation is usually established to make sure that every gets an equal chance to smoke from the hookah.  Of course you can feel free to pass your turn but never skip someone else. Let them make that choice. It’s rude and will greatly lengthen the time it takes for the hose to get to them. Everyone should get a fair number of opportunities to smoke.

Never Blow Smoke in Someone’s Face

Come on people. I shouldn’t have to tell you these things.

Cap Your Hose

If you’re smoking from a multi-hose hookah that doesn’t have an auto-seal function you should cap the mouthpiece of your hose with your thumb when you’re not actively smoking. An open hose that’s not being drawn on is just a leak as it draws air into the hookah when another hose is used.

Don’t Fight for the Smoke

Another tip for multi-hose hookahs. If someone else is drawing from their hose, wait until they are done. Pulling at the same time makes it harder to draw and can overheat the bowl. I’ve known some people who would do this to prevent others from getting smoke just to be playful but it was just annoying. It’s a hookah session. Don’t treat it like tug of war.

Don’t Smoke Cigarettes with Hookahs

Keep them away from the hookah, don’t light them on the coals and don’t ash them in the tray. These are big faux pas in the Middle East but also unappreciated anywhere else.

That all seems pretty simple, right? Observation of these guidelines will make your sessions more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Traditional Hookah Smoking Practices

These are a a bit more traditional and less mandatory for your average session.

  1. The hookah should always be on the floor or on a level lower than the smokers and the head of the hookah should be lower than the head of the smokers. This is to show that the hookah is our servant in a sense. We should not be slave to the hookah/nicotine. Placing your hookah on a table is also seen as an insult to the people you’re with. It’s telling them they are lower than your smoking pipe.
  2. Hold the hose with the right hand only while smoking. The left hand is seen as unclean in the Middle East.
  3. When passing the hose, point the tip of it towards yourself and gently fold the hose along the handle. Pass the folded and to the next person while averting your gaze. Pointing the tip at someone else is seen as aggressive and pushy.
  4. When receiving the hose from someone else, slightly tap their hand as a sign of “thank you” and “respect”. I’m not talking about a lingering tickle. It’s a very slight and subtle move that you’re unlikely to see outside of the Middle East. It lets the person know that you’ve accepted the offer while they avert their gaze.
  5. If you (and others) are done, wrap the hose around the shaft of the hookah. Do not simply lay the hose on the table and leave it loose. This keeps everything less cluttered and, at hookah bars, indicates that you’re done so the attendant can check in with you and address your needs.

Do you have any rules or guidelines that you follow that I haven’t listed? What are your house rules that everyone must observe at your place?

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