I don't smoke. But that didn't stop me from falling in love with this shisha pipe (argila here in the UAE, narghile on the French-North African axis, hookah - call it what you will, just not hubble-bubble). Designed by Hilton McConnico for Airdiem, and named for the fez it wears with such style, it brings a cheeky and stylish wit to an item that is mostly hidebound by tradition. That's to be expected of the polymath, American-in-Paris McConnico, whose irreverent and brilliantly creative work ranges from the famous Cactus series of pâte de verre crystal for Daum to hand-painted plates for Sèvres porcelain, exhibition design for Hermès and film collaborations with Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva) and François Truffaut (Vivement Dimanche!).
Evocative of crazy Parisian nights (as its makers suggest) it brings real personality and a Pop Art sense of fun to what is, in any case, as much about conviviality as inhaling tobacco smoke. But there's more to it than its take-me-home-with-you appeal. The founders of Airdiem have built their business on combining great design with high quality materials (in this case, nacrine, a type of acrylic mother-of-pearl, and mouth-blown glass) and craftsmanship, as well as technical advances.
And so, the things that matter to smokers: the burner is made of a high-tech ceramic used in watch-making and aeronautics and holds the coals on a super-fine mesh rather than foil. Having a double chamber "distills the mixture to the perfect temperature for a mild smoke", as I'm told by those who have used it. They also say that once you have smoked one of these pipes you will never want to go back to the regular kind.
That won't convert me to smoking but it would seem churlish to deny my friends that pleasure. Besides, Chechia would make such a cute house-mate. Dh5,400 from Scarabee, Marina Mall Abu Dhabi, 02 681 2831, and The Palace (Lobby Showcase), Old Town Island, Downtown Burj Dubai, 050 373 9182; www.airdiem.com