WHAT IS SHISHA?
The word Shisha originally comes from the Persian for glass. This is often a cause of confusion for westerners who find the word used to describe the smoking apparatus (the hookah), whereas they often use the word to refer only to the smoking material which is placed inside the bowl of the hookah. As explained elsewhere on this site the reason why the word hookah has caught on so well in the west is due to the fact that among the first westerners to sample the famous water pipe where British people living in India during the time of the British Empire when India was a colony. Because the Indians used to refer to the pipe as huqqa, the word caught on in English as well.
Nowadays when you hear the word shisha it is usually used to denote the often fruit infused sticky tobacco mixtures used for smoking inside the hookah pipe. They are most commonly referred to under the umbrella term of “Shisha Tobacco”. There are three accepted types of shisha tobacco: the first is called maassal, the second tumbak and the third is referred to as Ajami shisha. Ajami shisha is created from 100% pure tobacco leaves and as a result is generally more expensive than maassal. The way Ajami shisha is prepared is to soak the leaves in water for several minutes and then mould them into the shape of a cone and gently place then in the bowl. The cone ought to be pushed into the middle of the down, thus allowing air to pass through, the coal is usually placed directly on top. A lit charcoal is placed on the top. Maassal is made of a blend of tobacco, honey, fruits(usually apple, strawberries, grapes, melon, etc.) and molasses. This is the sweet flavoured hookah tobacco most people readily associate with the hookah pipe. A deeper bowl is ordinarily used for maassal than for ajami, and the coals are always separated from the maassal by a screen or a piece of perforated foil paper.
Tumbak is the traditional coarse unprocessed tobacco that was originally smoked in the hookah pipe, it is still used today, although its use has been superseded by the use of maassal shisha. The following is a list of terms frequently encountered to do with the hookah and it's various shisha mixes.