A 30-year-old medwakh pipe
Long before shisha pipes or even cigarettes, the medwakh pipe was the choice of smokers in the Emirates.This fine example, carved from wood and decorated with silver, comes from Fujairah
. Purchased more than 30 years ago, its owner uses it to this day.
The origins of the medwakh pipe are lost in time, but it has always been most popular in the Arabian Gulf.
Pipes were often made locally either by carpenters, or depending on the material, blacksmiths. Popular choices were wood from the sidr tree, or animal bones, both goat and camel. Lead-free copper, known locally as al safr, was used as decoration.
It is said that locals on coastal areas would adapt seashells when medwakh pipes were not available.
To smoke the medwakh, it is first necessary to prepare a variety of local tobacco called tibgh, and sometimes dokha, which is mixed with spices, herbs and dried flowers. Tobaccos flavoured with fruits are also available, although unlike those for shisha, these do not use molasses.
In older times, the tobacco was dried over a fire then crushed into smaller pieces that were stored in the horn of a goat.
Today glass and plastic bottles have replaced the goat's horn, with the dokha graded in strength, from "cold" to "extra hot". Both the pipes and tobacco can be purchased in specialist smoke shops.
The pipe's most famous devotee is probably the rapper Snoop Dogg, who gave a demonstration of the medwakh on a YouTube video before his concert in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
Whether the medwakh is more injurious than other forms of smoking is a matter of debate. The tibgh or dokha tobacco is high in nicotine, but its supporters say that because it is cured naturally, it is less damaging.
Given that the name medwakh translates from Arabic as "something which makes you dizzy", however, it is probably a habit not to be encouraged, even by Snoop Dogg.