Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First Person

MTUbaygov Same Samatovich at work.
Ubaygov Same Samatovich, 44, hookah master at Om Cafe:

"I'm originally from Uzbekistan and I came to Moscow about eight years ago. I became interested in the hookah when I learned about its history. It was first smoked in Egypt and India.

"I went through a hookah training program here in Moscow. For the first six months, you learn all about the hookah and how to prepare it. Different ways of preparing the hookah make a difference in the qualities of the smoke. For example, if you make the hookah with water, the smoke is very dry and it dries the throat, so we learn to serve it with sweet tea. If you use milk instead of water, the smoke is much softer and makes you feel more full. If you use alcohol it will often give you a little extra kick.

"The next six months of my training involved an apprenticeship, learning how to interact with the customers and make their experience better. One thing that distinguishes a restaurant with a hookah master is that the hookah master knows how to make the most of the tobacco. One trick is that you have to have two little pieces of coal instead of one big one. If you have one big one in the center, then all the tobacco burns up at once and the hookah won't last as long. If you have two little ones, you must put them opposite each other on the tobacco cup and then move them around in a circle as the customer smokes. This way the tobacco burns gradually.

"I'm very meticulous about keeping everything clean and fresh. We have many different flavors of tobacco. In addition, you can mix certain spices like curry with the tobacco. You can also use fresh fruit, instead of the clay cup, to hold the tobacco. This makes the smoke lighter and sweeter.

"I have been at Om Cafe for four years now. It's the only place I've worked and I love working here. I like that the cafe's theme is Eastern culture because this is what brought me to hookah culture in the first place."