A fine-ground tobacco blend smoked in a long pipe called ‘medwakh’ is favoured for the drowsy effect the nicotine rush gives, say users. Image Credit: File

Dubai: A practice originating in Oman over two centuries ago, dokha smoking has become a common phenomenon among people between the ages of 20 and 30, with over 150 dokha shops selling the tobacco blend in the UAE, the manager of a certain dokha store in Jumeirah said.

According to Arees A., an Indian, dokha, a fine-ground tobacco blend smoked in a long pipe called ‘medwakh’, is favoured for the drowsy effect the nicotine rush gives.

“We don’t add anything to the blend, it’s just pure tobacco which gives a nicotine rush. The effect lasts for only a few seconds. Originally dokha was smoked out of animal horn,” Arees A. said. “Over time, people started carving wood as smoking apparatuses. Pipes made out of wood are the most commonly used today with prices ranging from Dh20 to Dh400 depending on the type of wood used.”

Arees said pipes made of ivory are still being sold and popular among Emirati smokers. Other novelty pipes are available, too, such as ones made out of glass, granite or even carved with a wolf’s head at the bowl.

“An average pipe made of ivory costs about Dh300,” he said. “The price can spike according to the design. We also offer custom-made pipes to our customers with an average cost of Dh800.”

Since growing dokha is prohibited in the UAE, dokha shops import the tobacco from Oman.

“We have our own plantation in Hatta [Oman] where we grow the tobacco plants,” he said. “It is a different type of tobacco leaf than that found in cigarettes. The harshness of the smoke depends on where the leaf is taken from. Leaves plucked from higher up the stalks are harsher. After harvesting the leaves, we put them out to dry for about four days, using fans to repel humidity. We then mix them and sell the blends to our customers.”

When asked whether there was a chance dokha could contain traces of marijuana, Arees chuckled, claiming: “I don’t know about other stores but it’s impossible that tobacco leaves from our plantation have marijuana. The farms are regulated and there’s a quality check. It isn’t laced with anything, it is just pure tobacco. I’ve never heard that before.”

Arees said an average price for a medium-sized bottle (8gm) costs Dh20. Petrol stations have also recently started selling dokha, and commonly offer three blends (strong, medium, light)

“We have customers who have been smoking for more than a decade,” he said. “They can instantly tell if the blend has been changed.”

According to Arees, more and more women in the country are picking up the habit as well.

“They usually don’t come into the store. They either call beforehand or honk from their cars, where we deliver the dokha. We are even selling pink and gold-trimmed pipes for that demographic.”

When asked what was the proper way of smoking dokha, Arees said: “Well, you first fill the bowl to just below the brim by either scooping it from the bottle or tapping the dokha into the smoking bowl. You then inhale thrice as you burn the leaves. You’ll get a strong nicotine rush afterwards. You then tap the pipe clean into an ashtray.”