What Precisely is a Hookah?

The hookah has a protracted and storied history. Also known variously as a hubble-bubble, narghile, shisha, or water pipe, among other names, hookahs have been used for a mellow tobacco smoking expertise in Asia and the Center East for centuries. Coming to the Center East from India, the hookah started out as a humble coconut shell. In Turkey, it developed into the true hookah, becoming a mainstay of coffee house life throughout the seventeenth century. Hookah smoking is still quite common in cafes and eating places throughout the Middle East.

Many rituals, of preparation, lighting, and smoking etiquette, surround using the hookah. Folks gathered in the coffee houses to smoke collectively, exchanging news and stories–or simply sharing quiet, meditative time. Recalling a more relaxed and unhurried past, hookahs conjure tales of journeys alongside the Nile, lengthy nights in exotically scented gardens, the spice of the bazaar, and the sinuous music of the belly dance.

Hookahs were smoked by ladies gathered for tea, by students engaging in mental dialogue, men taking part in games of chance, and simple gatherings of friends for enjoyment and relaxation. Providing a visitor a puff at the house hookah, or narghile, was a sign of welcome and hospitality. Reasonably than a habit of nervousness, as many might classify the cigarette, the hookah is an entry to tranquility and reflection. It’s a connection to the past and an oasis of civilized fellowship in the frenetic present.

With such a protracted history, it’s not surprising that the craftsmanship in a hookah approaches the level of artwork; most hookahs are exquisitely detailed and beautiful. At one time, every part of the hookah was produced by a craftsman specifically trained to produce just that piece. Supplies used included silver, crystal, and amber. Once you add in the centuries of tradition and ritual in which the hookah is steeped, it’s easy to see that this historical water pipe represents the nexus of a singular and luxuriant expertise in smoke and social interplay–and why it’s becoming so common in the West.

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