Up in smoke – but bespoke shisha pipes fire the imagination

The luxury Desvall shisha pipe is available to buy at Harvey Nicols in Dubai for a smokin' Dh45,000.
The Disvall shisha pipe is on sale for Dh45,000. Courtesy Emile Disvall
The Disvall shisha pipe is on sale for Dh45,000. Courtesy Emile Disvall

The variously named hookah, waterpipe, narghile, arghila, hubbly-bubbly or shisha is a testament to the indigenous nature and geographic spread of this favourite regional pastime.

Although the UAE’s shisha cafes are finding increasing legislation is changing the nature of their business, the sights and smells as residents draw deeply on brightly coloured totems of Arabia is common all the same.

With the fruity flavoured tobacco increasing in popularity across Europe and North America, largely driven by émigrés from the Levant and creating a new demographic of shisha smokers, this new waft of custom laid down a scent

The sweet smell of success found its way to the nostrils of Emile Desvall in Stockholm, Sweden.

He calls himself a creative entrepreneur, who three years ago decided that shisha pipes were not a premium product and set about designing the perfect shisha pipe that would leave all others ­wanting.

The resulting Desvall shisha pipe is on sale at Harvey Nichols in Mall of the Emirates for Dh45,000, a serious amount to spend for a quick smoke. Mr Desvall insists the workmanship and quality have resulted in the pipes becoming a fixture in Dubai’s high-end stores.

And he cites four elements in the creation of the perfect shisha pipe a. The design b. The functionality c. The quality and manufacturing of parts and d. The smoke.

With this in mind, Mr Desvall set about building the ultimate hookah pipe.

A hand-made, precisely engineered and exquisitely finished piece of carbon fibre, its workings are fashioned from titanium that brings a northern European level of finish, design and manufacture to a Middle Eastern mainstay.

One of his custom-made designs (prices for bespoke pipes can be much higher) was created from hand-blown glass, hand-made ceramics, a pioneering use of leather working techniques and reindeer antler carvings of the indigenous Sami people – the Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

Mr Desvall believed that with the level of disposable income available for luxury, design, engineering and a bespoke offering, there should be a market for his shisha pipes. He is looking to employ more people after the summer to meet global demand, not just from smokers but for people who view the objects with a more artistic eye.

He has already had a request for a pipe made from 18-karat gold.

Who from? I ask. “A buyer from the Middle East,” he needlessly answers.

q&a just light up and luxuriate

Emile Desvall, the founder of Desvall, reveals more about his luxury bespoke shisha pipe.

Dh45,000 is a lot of money. Are many people buying?

As we are a private company I can keep the numbers to myself but I have seen the numbers climb dramatically, and now we are looking to increase our staffing from eight full-timers to more. The pipes are incredibly labour-intensive with everything hand-made and hand-stitched, from the titanium fittings to the clay thrown bowl and the thrice-folded carbon fibre skin.

It’s still a lot of money.

People with money are always willing to pay for a high-end experience. If you look at fashion, cars, kitchens or jewellery there is always room at the top for the very best and that is what I have tried to create.

I always thought the shisha experience was down to the tobacco.

It has a lot to do with the tobacco, which is why we are launching our own tobacco in October. It will not have the chemicals added that most do. It will be wholly natural, inspired by food flavours but we will also offer the traditional flavours.

You offer a bespoke service?

We do, we will create what anyone wants with whatever material they want. We have one big celebrity endorsement from the rapper Drake for whom we created his own pipe.

Did Drake have to pay for his pipe?

I will keep that information to myself, but we both enjoy the relationship mutually.


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Published: May 7, 2014 04:00 AM


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