The Origins of Hookah


Hookah originated nearly a millenia ago in India. Specifically, the practice was born in the north western provinces along the border of Pakistan. The orginal hookahs were nothing like the elaborate devices seen today. In ancient India, hookahs were made from a coconut shell. The coconut shell was used as the base and a tube and head were attached.

Hookahs were originally designed for smoking opium and hashish. However, as hookahs spread into Persia, people began using them to smoke tombeik. Tombeik, a dark tobacco grown in modern day Iran, was rinsed and packed in the old-style heads and heated by placing a hot coal directly on top of the tobacco. In Persia, the smoking of this kind of hookah is known as ghelune. Today, Persian hookahs are hand-crafted from wood. Since cigrettes became widely available, ghelune is smoked mainly by women as they are not on the go.

Hookahs moved into Turkey around the time of Murat the Fourth between 1623 and 1640. Nargile, as it is known there, became an important part of the coffee shop culture during this time period and was smoked by men and women. It is craftsmen in Turkey that developed the modern style of hookah. In the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, the nargile became incredibly popular with the upperclass. Rules for proper nargile etiquette were developed by the elites.

Today, hookah bars can be found all around the world. While the customs and etiquette may change in different countries, the spirit of the practice is the same universally. Hookah is a social activity, and hookah bars are relaxed places where people get together to talk and enjoy the hookah and each other.

Sources: The Hookah Hookah Company

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