Here is How Does a Hookah Work – (Infographic included)

Written by Jacob - Hookah Enthusiast

Last updated May 11, 2023

Smoking hookah is one of our favorite activities. Especially if you are a beginner, you may be wondering about some basic things when it comes to hookah anatomy.

That’s probably why you are here. It’s always interesting to learn something new, especially in terms of “how does a hookah work”. I’ll try to make the key moments clear and more importantly, I’ll do my best to help you understand this basic topic.

Let’s dive in!

First, what is a hookah?

Old hookah Marroco

In a historical plan, hookah is a smoking device that was first used hundreds of years ago in India. Nowadays it is transformed into a modern instrument of vaporizing flavored shisha tobacco. Transformed doesn’t necessarily mean that its basic usage and the way it works have been changed.

In fact, it’s completely the opposite.

Hookah traditions and basics have been saved, but when it comes to hookah appearance – modern hookahs can not be compared with the traditional ones. On today’s market, there are lots of good-looking, modern hookahs made from glass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum, and even other, way more expensive materials such as carbon fiber, gold, etc.

But do all those changes make a difference when you smoke? In most cases, the answer is no.

In fact, hookah is not just a tradition, it is now part of people’s lifestyle, culture and even creates connections between people and communities. That is the reason why there are so many types of devices made from different exotic materials. 

How exactly does a hookah work?

How does a hookah work - Infographic

The hookah has multiple parts. Each part has its own function. They must be assembled properly, otherwise, the hookah will not work as it should.

On the top, you have a bowl filled with shisha tobacco and packed with foil or a metal screen. The coals are placed on the top of the bowl. Moving down to the stem, we move to the water, which works as a filter and a cooler at the same time. And at the end, we have a hookah hose connected to the hose port. It’s good to know that the hookah hose is not connected to any of the main parts as a stem or vase.

As you can imagine, the hookah is nothing but a simple device that provides a very effective, fun, and less harmful way to smoke tobacco.

The “magic” happens when you inhale from the hose. Basically, when you start pulling from the hookah you suck air which activates the ignited coals and the tobacco gets heated. What happens is that the shisha gets heated and is then vaporized. The smoke starts to travel through the stem, then hits the water where it is cooled down. The bubbles pull out filtered smoke and now this smoke travels to the end of this journey throughout the hookah hose.

Can you get high from smoking hookah?

There are many different hookah flavors and shisha types on the market. On one side, there is the blond leaf tobacco which is lighter and more beginner-friendly. On the other side is the dark leaf tobacco, which is stronger and heavier. Strong doesn’t mean that you can get high from smoking a hookah. So the answer is no, you can’t get high from smoking a hookah. However, you can feel only the buzz which is normal with shisha smoking.

How does a hookah work - Infographic


Know your basics if you are getting into the hookah world of smoking. It will not just improve your sessions, but you will be more consistent when it comes to hookah preparation. Now you are ready to share with your friends what you’ve learned about how hookahs work. Get your favorite shisha out and prepare the best hookah in the world.

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