Deep rooted in ancient tradition, the origins of Hookah, Shisha, Narghile or water pipe are widely argued. Born from Middle Eastern history many countries claim to be the ‘father’ of this multi-stemmed instrument. From India to Iran, Turkey to Syria and along to Egypt pinpointing the origin has never been confirmed despite all these countries laying claim.
One thing for sure they all take on the standard form. Standard Hookah or Shisha pipes, will be made up of a vase, stem, tray and head along with hose ports and release valves. And they all work in pretty much a similar way:
- Fill the vase with water making sure you cover the stem.
- Then in the head, place your flavoured tobaccos, or molasses and cover with tin foil.
- Prick the foil all over with a needle and place coals on top, but do not cover all the holes you made.
- Light the coals and wait for them to stop ‘smoking’.
- Inhale through the hose until smoke bubbles down through the water.
There are many different names for this special water pipe here in the UK they are generally known as Hookah or Shisha Pipes. The British were first exposed to this unusual form of smoking came during the British dominion of India (1858–1947), when expats had their first uses of Shisha pipes. At that time it was a huge part of the culture and was brought back here to the UK. However it never followed the same popularity. The earliest dates of use came from the Middle East popular in Persia, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Other early concepts of the Hookah were used in South Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, later spreading to Southeast Asia and South Africa.
Many cultures see smoking Shisha Pipes as part of their traditions, enjoyed in social settings with single or double hoses. At get-togethers users hand the pipes around the group after taking a smoke. Across the Middle East you can find many cafes offering Shishas, as many as you would find Starbucks in the USA and pubs in the UK. As prohibition is in place in many of these countries it makes for a nice social gathering.
Shishas are not exclusively used for smoking tobacco, there are herbal molasses available which contain no tar, nicotine o tobacco. Other ‘herbs’ can also be used in Shisha’s however in many countries this is illegal, so you’re better off heading to Amsterdam or Colorado to enjoy cannabis in a shisha.
Image of Smoking Cafe courtesy of Marwa Morgan