The smells hit you first. Citrus, mint and fruit perfume the air on a dark staircase illuminated only by tiny blue lights. The last stair opens up to an equally dark and expansive loft space. Standing behind a tall counter decorated with cylinders of rose petals suspended in water is a man wearing a warm smile. In a smooth voice, he asks if you’ve ever smoked hookah before.
Ahmed Rodol, the man behind the counter, and his business partner, Hassan Hassan, own Nomad’s, Pullman’s newest hookah lounge.
In short, a hookah is an ornate water pipe used to smoke a syrupy tobacco called shisha (shee-shah). Unlike cigarettes or other tobacco products, hookah smoke is dense and rich in fragrance and flavor. Although its origins are believed to be Indian, hookah is also deeply rooted in Middle Eastern culture.
“It’s not about smoking, it’s about socializing,” says Hassan.
There’s no doubt that Nomad’s is aiming for an upscale experience. The gorgeous downtown loft space boasts high ceilings, exposed brick, gauzy window coverings and sleek leather couches situated around intimate candle-lit coffee tables. It’s unlike any other place in the region, as its very nature, in addition to belly dancers on Friday nights and live DJs, separate it from the nearby sea of college bars.
All attendees must pay $5 for a membership — a necessary step to get around the indoor smoking ban. From there, depending on what you’d like to smoke, a hookah for three will set you back $15 to $20 — not bad for at least an hour-long smoke session, especially when Hassan custom-mixes shisha blends for guests, students and professionals alike.
By 10 pm on a Saturday night, the lounge is bustling. Groups gather around three-foot tall hookahs, sip Somali tea ($2), and laugh as the clouds of smoke they exhale become illuminated in the twinkling blue lights. It’s an experience like no other, with the ever-attentive Hassan there to guide newbies through the experience.
“I think it’s gonna catch on like fire,” he says.
Nomad’s Hookah Lounge • 215 S. Main St., Pullman • Open Mon-Wed and Sun, 5 pm-2 am; Thu-Sat, 5 pm-3 am • (899-8191)