Smoking in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast
I got back recently from a business trip to the Jewish Autonomous Oblast which is a portion of the Russian Federation established originally as a Jewish Socialist state by Stalin. These days it's mostly made up of Russians but the Jewish minority is thriving culturally in the capitol of Birobidzhan and while my stay was short I found the city modern and quite charming. The governmental types I spoke with all speak Yiddish and finding a qualified interpreter was extremely difficult.
I also found out much to my surprise that narghile culture seems to be well established there although the pastime is not nearly as big a deal as it is in the West.
What activity I did find was out of a thriving lounge run by a Tartar gentleman who amazingly enough spoke enough English allowing me to get great service. What they had in terms of stuff to smoke was a dark brown tombac which was quite nice, a sweet molasses tasting black moassel and a moassel that had molases, vanilla and anise like flavours which was very pleasant. The moassels were quite flavourful and surprisingly wet although they did not produce a great deal of smoke they were very enjoyable unwashed products with a strong after taste of Oriental like pipe tobacco.
It seems that all of these products are made in the Caucasuses region of Russia and as I understand it are made by ethnic Armenians but getting much info was tough do to the language barriers. The narghiles were simple, solid brass rigs decorate with scenes of harvesting and other agricultural motifs. The rigs tended to be shorter then what I am used to being about 26" - 30" U.S.
For the most part the cafe had a collection of people of different ages and was sexually integrated. The atmosphere was very relaxed and I had a lot of great conversations over strong tea and a sort of fruit bread and biscuits.
Overall I could see that cafe as the sort of place that most Westerns would feel right at home.
Last edited by Hajo Flettner; March 11th, 2009 at 03:14 PM.