HOOKAH HISTORY

Hookah pipes have been around for hundreds of years. During the 17th century, hookah pipes were often seen in coffee shops or small restaurants along the streets of Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. Since then the world of Hookah smoking has greatly expanded. Although we are unsure of the true origin of the water pipe, it is believed that the original design for the hookah came from India or Persia. It was in Turkey that the water pipe completed its revolution and has hardly changed its style for the last few hundred years. The Turkish people were the first to make smoking water pipes a common practice and soon discovered that it could be used in a more convenient way. So, around 500 years ago, they reshaped the design and added a hose. To this day, the same basic design is used for each hookah with the option of adding multiple hoses to make each smoking session more convenient and enjoyable.

The hypothesis of an American origin arose from the crossing of speculations on ways shisha was used through gourds in America and from deep studies as those conducted at the beginning of the century by a scholar named L. Wiener. The latter asserted that shisha smoking would have been imported from America to Africa several centuries before the arrival of Europeans. I. Van Sertima enriched such a contribution by endeavouring, in his turn, to show that African men certainly lived in America before the discovery of this last continent and brought to theirs smoking behaviours like the use of pipes.


The Indian (Asia) track lacks sources. So, here, let us restrict ourselves to quote only two authors without proceeding with the discussion. J. A. Frank freely asserts that "two thousand years before the discovery of shisha, it seems that a water pipe called Dhoom Netra, filled with aromatic and medicinal herbs, and also very probably with drugs, was smoked". G.Gercek states, without supporting facts, that narghile was born in India and that the artefact benefited from the addition of innovative elements as the bowl and the nozzle when it reached the Ottoman Empire.

The Persian origin is particularly upheld by B.M. Du Toit through ethnographical surveys in southern Africa. The researcher was interested in the origin of dagga (cannabis) and repeatedly reports the use of the "dakka" water pipe. From contemporary Iran, a researcher named Hasan Semsar ascribes the invention of narghile to the "Persian genius", ex-nihilo, without providing with more details on the emergence of such an innovation in smoking manners.

The possibility of an African origin for narghile has been submitted by specialists as A. Dunhill and J.E. Philips. The first of both considers the "dakka" water pipe used by the "Hottentots" (Khoikhoin), living in the South of the continent, as the precursor of narghile. As for the second scholar, his research was based on a detailed and technical discussion, particularly about undertaken excavations and dating problems posed at Hyrax Hill in Kenya, Sebanzi in Zambia, Engaruka in Tanzania and in other places of the African continent.

To sum up, the social use of narghile, on a large-scale, can be fixed as simultaneous with the emergence of the public coffee-house and the adoption of shisha. Today, the hypotheses we have kept, on account of their pertinence and relevance, ascribe a South African, Ethiopian or Persian origin to the pipe. A European origin is also defended by historians of shisha. These last ones consider that narghile would be a form adopted by the American pipe in the Mediterranean region, in Africa or in Asia, after the spreading of the latter by the Europeans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Should they continue in a systematic way, the archaeological excavations undertaken here and there in southern and oriental Africa throughout the twentieth century, could indeed come up with the definitive evidence of the use of water pipes on this continent well before the critical and symbolic threshold year 1600 represents for the upholders of the European hypothesis. The case of this Ethiopian cave where water pipe bowls were discovered, and where the smoked use of cannabis in the fourteenth century has been confirmed by chemical methods, undoubtedly constitutes a step forward.
from The Sacred Narghile site, courtesy of Rive magazine.

Hookah pipes and the act of smoking one has become a favorite Middle Eastern pastime and it's spreading throughout the world. The hookah, also referred to as a narghile or narghila, shisha or sheesha, water-pipe, and hubbly-bubbly, has long inspired great discussions of politics, religion, and the daily happenings. In social gatherings, the passing of the hose is remarkable- a narghile is placed in the center of a group and smokers pass the hose to the next in the circle, all the while exchanging words and sharing ideas in a playful mode. It is known to bring people together and to bring peace to any place in which it is used in it’s natural state of relaxation.

The popularity of the hookah and the life style behind it has sky-rocketed in recent years, mainly due to the social nature of hookah smoking. In the United States, where everything has become so fast paced that people rarely have time to socialize with family or friends, it certainly contributes to the smoker's integration in his or her social environment in a brotherly peaceful act of solidarity. Clusters of hookah smokers can now be seen in most cities around the United States; rather it’s in the private of their own home or at a local hookah lounge. Many people prefer hookah smoke to cigarettes or hand and glass pipes because of the cool, smooth flavorful taste of the smoke and soothing sounds of the bubbling water in the decorative glass vase.

The shisha, also called tombac, gouza, moassel, shisha or sheesha, is a special blend of fresh, dark leaves, fruit pulp, honey or molasses, and glycerine. The shisha is available in a wide variety of flavors including double apple, strawberry, melon, pineapple, vanilla, chocolate and rose. This, for some, is more appealing than cigarette or cigar smoking because it contains only 0.5% nicotine and no tar. With a vast collection of flavors to choose from and many other variables to manipulate, hookah smoking is truly an art. Many experienced smokers enjoy adding ice, fruit juice, milk or wine to water in the glass vase to change the taste, texture, or effect of the smoke.

These days in the cafés of Cairo, puffing on their hookah water pipes, patrons mutter about the unstoppable invasion of American fast food and trash television. Few realize that the hookah itself is stealthily spreading across the globe and is, in fact, enjoyed by many Americans.

NOTE: Several hypotheses on the birthplace of the narghile must be taken into account. They concern Europe, America, India, Persia and Africa. Those who try hard to write the official history of smoking mention an American origin for the latter and a European one for the transmission of its use modes, as the common pipe, the chibouque or even narghile. Such an argument states that the Europeans would have taught Asian and African peoples how to smoke, particularly through the pipe. A consequence is that cannabis would have been inhaled, neither in Europe, nor in Africa, nor anywhere else, before the arrival of smoking.

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