After years of capturing the hearts of shisha-lovers across the globe, local brand Farida Hookahs and their inventive, avant garde designs are finally selling their unique pieces in Egypt...
In every street in Egypt thick, sweet smoke churns into the air en masse and in tune to a chorus of lazy sighs, inflated kirshes and cheerful chatter. Smoking shisha is the Arab world's take on after-work drinks and a nation-wide addiction, but does anyone ever stop being hooked long enough to think about the hookah?
Farida which translates to 'unique', is the brainchild of design entrepreneur Randa Ahmed who, after founding her company Unique Design in the UK more than two decades ago, designing and importing hand made Egyptian crafts to blue flagship companies such as Harrods, Boots and Signet Jewelers, found a niche a few years ago in the worldwide market in the form of boutique hookahs.
It's easy to think of hookahs in the rest of the world as glorified bongs, but surprisingly the shisha industry is a booming subculture worldwide. Conferences such as Inter-Tabac in Dortmund, Hookah Fair in Frankfurt, and the Tabacco Plus Expo in the US rake in hundreds of thousands of shisha lovers every year, and shisha cafes are fast becoming a trend in many European countries. And you'd be hard pressed to find one of these who doesn't own or hasn't heard of a made-in-Egypt Farida Hookah.
"Eight years ago after returning to Egypt, I fell in love with the Egyptian hookahs, although I don't even smoke cigarettes or shisha," Ahmed tells us, "But I fell in love with the art of brass engraving with detailed design. I learned about hookahs from the top masters in the craft in Egypt and after two years I decided to venture out with my own brand, Farida. It gave me a chance to give my previous experience in handcrafts, fashion, and interior design a new output."
With more than 5000 Farida Hookah Google reviews and 3000 YouTube videos made by satisfied customers, this luxury Egyptian brand has stolen the hearts (and probably a few lungs) of shisha connoisseurs as far and wide as Brazil, the USA, Russia, and Spain with its line of avant-garde quality hookahs, which for the first time will now be selling within Egypt, hoping to make a dent in a market saturated with cheap knock-offs.
"Everyone these days are importing cheap hookahs, which don't work properly," Ahmed explains, "They use the cheapest metals like chrome and paint them electrostatically, like cars. They may look good but god knows what you get inside."
"The more advanced they get with machine-made stuff, the less valuable it becomes," she elaborates, "Most shishas they serve in an ahwa balady don't last long."
One big incentive for Ahmed is re-igniting lost art forms in Egypt that have been replaced by carbon-copy machine-made goods that are made for cheaper elsewhere. "I helped many small workshops in Egypt during the recession who created my designs for export worldwide. One of my aims is also to help these talented craftsmen."
And with that ethos her hookahs have become some of the most reputable in the world, featuring solid heavy brass with deep engraving, copper down-stems, hand painted glass or brass vases, all made with the perfect detailing for form, function and the best pull when smoking.
"Most of the people who work in the hookah business are brokers who are in the business of making money; for me I breathe, eat and sleep hookahs."
Taking inspiration from almost everything and anything, Farida Hookahs has dreamed up some truly fantastical concepts such as the 'Melouky', a hookah made of crystal, snake skin, and ostrich feathers, two-meter tall gold plated, floral 'Royalty' hookahs, or an evolution of the ancient Indian shishas made fully of wood, lining the inside with brass so the taste isn't absorbed into the wood.
"It's a fashion show for me," Ahmed exclaims, "My aim is to challenge the whole world of hookahs to make something that's never been done before. I don't go for fads."
Now selling to both individuals and cafes across Egypt, offering customised designs, we expect you'll be front row and center at a Farida Hookah fashion show soon.
For inquiries e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.faridahookahs.com or call 01285210015 for their limited edition new ranges.