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March 15, 2020
You probably already know that hookah pipes come in many different shapes and sizes, but all shisha pipes generally fall into two main categories: traditional hookah pipes and modern hookah pipes. Most people new to smoking shisha are curious which type of hookah pipe is better, but both traditional hookah pipes (also called classic shishas) and modern hookah pipes have their pros and cons. Let's explore both types in greater detail so that you can decide which shisha pipe is best for you.
As the name suggests, traditional hookah pipes are the oldest (existing) form of smoking shisha and the various designs follow cultural origins and access to certain materials. While this article aims to look at the design differences between traditional and modern hookahs, those interested in the history of shisha can read our earlier blog article titled What's In a Name? – Shisha, Hookah, Nargileh and the Evolution of Water Pipes. Traditional shisha pipes can be further categorised by the country or region where the design originated from (but not necessarily where the pipe was manufactured); the main ones being Egyptian shisha pipes, Syrian argileh, and Turkish nargileh.
Since Egyptian shisha pipes are the most common type of traditional hookah pipes, you've probably come across them many times either at hookah lounges, shisha shops, or a friend's house. The open draw synonymous with quality Egyptian shisha pipes is the standard that all other hookah pipes are measured by. Egyptian hookahs come with a hand painted glass or ceramic vase, and coiled metal hoses with a woven leather exterior. Metal parts such as the stem are usually machined from brass or copper, and can have a tendency to rust and crack along welded joints.
Modern shisha pipe designs exploit modern manufacturing techniques and materials to create a superior product, at least in most aspects. While not as authentic looking when compared to traditional hookah pipes, modern hookah pipes come in all shapes and sizes to suit any shisha smoker's requirements. There are compact, table top modern shisha kits, right through to large, free standing modern shisha kits for a more enjoyable smoking session. In terms of the smoking experience, modern hookahs most closely resemble Egyptian shisha pipes, but with far better consistency. The culmination of superior parts and design generally produces a cooler, smoother draw. We're talking silicone hoses, breathers / purge valves, downstem diffusers, marine grade stainless steel components, plus better seals and joints. In fact, you may need to read our How to use a hookah pipe 2-part guide just to get your head around all the extra parts found in the modern designs. That's why a modern shisha pipe will generally cost more than a traditional hookah pipe upfront, but the on-going maintenance costs will be a lot less with a modern hookah pipe.
While we love and use all types of hookah pipes, we have distinct uses for both modern hookah pipes and traditional hookah pipes. If we're out of home at a mate's place or Melbourne shisha bar, we'll take the opportunity to smoke a traditional shisha pipe (providing it's been well maintained), especially if we come across a Syrian argileh or Turkish narghile. But for home use, the modern shisha pipe is easy choice due to its consistency, durability, and ease of use.
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Cleaning and maintaining your hookah / shisha pipe is one of the best ways to preserve your pipe and ensure you get longevity from it. This will also allow you to change flavours regularly and not be stuck with having to taste old sessions every time you smoke.
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