Shisha and baba ghanoush.
Probably doesn’t sound like much of an equation, but you better believe it is. Please let me do some explaining….
A shisha is a hookah. In case you have the visual of the caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland”, sitting atop an enormous (and most likely hallucinogenic) mushroom, this is nothing like it. There is an amazing mix of tobacco and additives (apple, mint, there are many options) that are placed under a hot coal at the top, drawn down through the water at the bottom of the device (add ice to the water), and then pulled out through a hose. Sound strange? It’s not. The aroma alone is enough to keep you going back. But, it is much more than that.
The shisha is, from what I can tell, and from what I have experienced, an integral part of ancient cultures – not just one. I have recently spent time with a very good friend of mine. We talked about the art of the shisha while we ate baba ghanoush (a kind of eggplant spread) in a local tavern.
The conversation drifted to my friend’s time spent on the family vineyard outside of Casablanca, playing Ronda (a card game) with family and friends, and then we talked of Tangier and Marrakesh. At this point it should be mentioned that I left out the most important parts of equation I mentioned earlier – culture and time.
I love culture. When I sit and bask in the wonders of an ancient culture, I do whatever I can to absorb it, see what parts of it mesh with me as a person, and adopt parts of the culture that will make me a better and well-rounded individual. The night before my departure, I was sitting at a small table with a few other people, taking and passing the shisha (fold the mouthpiece down to the hose before you pass it to the next person), and I realized that I needed MUCH more time than I had to absorb this culture that I was growing to love.
It takes time to see, absorb, reflect upon, and understand a culture that has developed over as many centuries as this one had. I didn’t have the time. But I did what I could in the time I had. What was the result? I’m a better person for having a greater understanding and admiration for the beauty that is diversity.
This world is shrinking, and I fear for the treasures that are ancient cultures. Globalization does not and SHOULD not mean homogenization of cultures and people. A palette should be full of different colors.
So, my friend, I fold the shisha hose and pass it to you. Take your time, savor the aromas of this planet, and experience life outside of your comfort zone.
And always remember, Shisha + baba ghanoush = one hell of a time.