A first-generation smoking machine and protocol have been developed in order to study the mainstream smoke aerosol and elucidate thermal-fluid processes of the argileh water pipe. Results using a common mo'assel tobacco mixture show that, contrary to popular perceptions, the mainstream smoke contains significant amounts of nicotine, "tar" and heavy metals. With a standard smoking protocol of 100 puffs of 3 s duration spaced at 30-s intervals, the following results were obtained in a single smoking session: 2.25 mg nicotine, 242 mg nicotine-free dry particulate matter (NFDPM), and relative to the smoke of a single cigarette, high levels of arsenic, chromium and lead. It was found that increasing puff frequency increased the NFDPM but had little effect on nicotine delivery, while removing the water from the bowl increased by several-fold the nicotine, but had little effect on NFDPM. It was also found that the charcoal disk heat source contributed less than 2% of total particulate matter (TPM), and that characteristic temperatures of the tobacco varied from 450 degrees C nearest the heat source to 50 degrees C furthest away, indicating that the NFDPM is likely a result of devolatilization rather than chemical reaction, and will thus differ significantly in composition from that of cigarette smoke.