Hookah flavors, how to have a shisha experience traveling around the Middle East

When traveling around the Middle East and also some central Asian countries such as Afghanistan many things will capture your attention, among which you will certainly get intoxicated by some hookah flavors.

Also known as sheesha, narghile and, in Persian-speaking countries such as Afghanistan and IranQelyon Miwaee  (fruit hookah), these colorful and sleek water pipes come with countless delicious flavors. While its origins are still a little fuzzy, Iran, Turkey, India and Arab countries have certainly been smoking hookah for a very long time. In the last few decades, the normal traditional narghile was changed into fruit-flavored hookahs.

Today shisha is very common among the younger generation of the Middle East and Central Asia, and it’s quickly spreading around the world. There are different hookah sets, mainly they have only one pipe but some have many so at the same time more than one person can smoke it.

hookah flavorsMany open-air restaurants and coffee shops in the Middle East and Central Asia serve hookah. In fact, when you scroll down the food menu, you will see the hookah flavors list and prices. I have seen many ordering foods, hookah and tea altogether, obviously hookah and tea for after the meal.

Last time in Afghanistan we were invited to a friend’s house and the first thing he offered us was tea and hookah on a big tray, even though I refused to smoke on an empty stomach.

I tried different light hookah flavors in Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Iran and Afghanistan but I can’t smoke for long myself, a couple of puffs and I choke. I’m not encouraging anyone to smoke hookah but if you wish to try while traveling in the countries I mentioned, here are my tips on what hookah flavors to pick.

If you are a first-timer, I suggest you smoke the light hookah flavors.

 Best hookah flavors and combinations

Good hookah flavors combinations can vary depending on individual preferences. My favorite is cinnamon as it’s very light and gives a nice taste to the mouth. Lemon, mint, gum and orange hookah flavors are light and pleasant as well. In one hookah you can have two or three flavors mixed at the same time, for example mint and lemon or lemon and gum. Some hookah bars and restaurants offer what they call “natural fruit hookah”: instead of the tobacco bowl they put an orange or lemon on the top of the hookah shaft and fill it with tobacco. Keep in mind that orange flavor gives headache to some users, so you might want to avoid it.

Hookah flavors you should definitely avoid unless you have years of experience smoking hookah: “double apple” flavor, peach, sour cherry, apple, black grapes, wine, cappuccino and watermelon flavors.

How to smoke shisha/hookah for the first time

If it’s your first time, here’s the best and easiest way to start smoking hookah. Place the mouthpiece of the hookah to your lips and hold the pipe with one hand. Start inhaling slowly and gradually, don’t inhale too much smoke otherwise you start coughing. The same goes for exhaling, exhale the smoke through your mouth slowly. Don’t go too fast, break for 3-5 seconds before you inhale again.

hookah flavors

Is shisha/hookah bad for you?

Yes, it is. It’s believed to be far more dangerous than cigarettes. It’s okay if you want to smoke few puffs once or twice on a trip when you are offered to in a cafe or restaurant, just don’t overdo it.

How to avoid hookah headache

To avoid hookah-induced headache it’s important to be hydrated, so drink water, tea or juice throughout your smoking session. Eat before you start because smoking with empty stomach makes the body absorb the nicotine of the hookah too quickly which can be one of the main factors of hookah headaches. The quality of hookah charcoal and tobacco are the other two main factors of hookah headache, fuzziness and nausea.

How to get rid of hookah headache

First of all, you need to stop smoking the second you feel dizzy, headache or shaky. Get away from the smoke somewhere you can no longer smell it and get some fresh air, drink a glass of cold water and if you can, eat something.

If you enjoy this article, you might also be interested in —>

Places to visit in Iran in 10 days, the ultimate guide

Things to do in Herat, Afghanistan

18 things to know before you travel to Iran

Sightseeing in Dubai, the old and the new

In the desert, discovering Abu Dhabi roots


  1. Interessante! Da provare….

  2. Donc un vrai repas turc termine avec le narghilé? Il faudra essayer…

  3. Gorgeous colors and fantastic perspective.

  4. I love that photo. I tried getting one which was nearly like it but something just went wrong. Great colors.

    • Thanks Natalie! Truth be said, that was a lucky shot, I took without thinking it was going to be nice, just because I liked the narghilé :)

  5. Great picture! I love narghilés they taste so good!

  6. Yes, I’ve tried it a couple of times in Turkey and also in Egypt. :-)

  7. There is something so exotic with these I think, and with so many choices of flavor you almost forget that it’s tobacco!

  8. narghilé? is this turkish word? well in farsi “they” call it qelyan ! (i have never tested it so far ;)

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