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Posted on Jun 2, 2017 | 0 comments







The term Shisha goes back on the persian word “shishe”, which means “glass”. The turkish word “sise” means “bottle”, and in several arabic dialects it specially names the bowl of a hookah or the whole waterpipe.

Another term for the waterpipe, that is used quite often, is “Nargile”. This word is the persian expression “nargile” and means coconut. So it describes one of the materials, that the original, indian waterpipe has been made of. Deduced from this term, there are also the words in Sanskrit (ancient indian language) “narikela” and “argila” and “nargila” in certain Syrian and Hebrew dialects. Further used term are “goza” (Sudanese for nut), which is mainly used for small hookahs, as well as the word “Hookah“, which is used in Great Britain and the USA for waterpipe.

Origin and developement:
The waterpipe and the shisha- tobacco, the way we know them today, has not been invented overnight. The hookah has emerged within a long period of about 500 years as the smoking device with fruity flavour and light smoke, which is so popular today. Originally the hookah comes from the very North of India, to be more precise from the regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat, close to the Pacistan border.
Primarily, the waterpipe has been manufactured out of coconuts. The hookah bowl consisted of the hard and watertight shell of the coconut, the smoke-stem was made of a hollow bamboo tube. As a kind of hose, they proberbly used a straw or a thinner bamboo tube.
Different from now, they have been smoking complete tobacco leaves, nowadays called “Tömbeki” (Turkish). These have been moistured with water and then rolled up around a stick, to make them a cylindric shape, while a little hollow funnel remained in the middle. The coal, which normally was charcoal from coconut wood, has been put directly on the tobacco leaves.

Via Persia the waterpipe reached Arabia between the 16th and 17th century, then reached the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and North-Africa, especially Tunesia and Egypt. In Turkey smoking hookah has been established by Sultan Ahmed I., who was well-known for his pleasure-seeking lifestyle. Some of his followers kept on prohibiting smoking from time to time, because they believed smoking was vicious. So, in the government of Murad IV. several persons per day have been executed for smoking tobacco.

Anyway, the waterpipe has emerged in the arabic countries as a cultural good, because as soon as something is prohibited, people badly want to try it. The hookah symbolises a well-balanced lifestyle, hospitality and sociality. Celebrated in coffee houses quite a lot, smoking hookah soon became a social event, to make families and friends meet. To make these events even more special, sweets and cookies have been served, while tea and coffee was consumed. For these smoking events several rules had to be obeyed. It was not allowed, for example, to light the coal with a candle, and ones own hookah mustn’t be positioned higher then the hookahs of others. Violating these rules could have meant the exclusion from the community. Very often, the hookah was a precious family heirloom, passed on from generation to generation. In those days, the top part of the hookah has been developed the way we know it now: With a smoke-stem made of metal, a bowl made of glass and a hose made of leather. The function of a hookah, though, always stayed the same.

After the golden age of waterpipes, they became more and more unfashioned at the beginning of the 20th century. Where they first symbolized friendship and sociality, they were now frowned upon being a smoking device of old people – similar to the classical tobacco pipes today in our society – or have been catching dust as a piece of scenery or as a souvenir from last years holiday in Turkey.

Within the last 10 years, the hookah has experienced a renaissance. It has been rediscovered by the young generation of arabic society and became an item of lifestyle. Now smoking hookah is regarded as modern and stylish. And it also has regained the worth of relaxing in a group of sympathic people – nowadays called “Chilling”.

In big cities like Dubai and Instanbul, hundreds of Hookah Cafès have opened within a few years only, where mainly young grown-ups and adolescents meet at night. The nightlives of these cities can not be imagined without those hookah bars. Older generations often sense this as negative, because modern hookah bars are pushing traditional coffee houses aside, in which they partly still smoke this Tömbeki. In the meantime, the trend of modern hookah bars has also asserted itself in Europe and the USA. Many young people smoke hookah regularily or every now and then. In the years 2005 and 2006 we have hade a real hookah-hype, which is, in fact, already slowing down again.
An explaination about why hookahs became so popular could be, that smoking waterpipe is such a contrast to allday’s life, which is getting faster and faster. Smoking hookah means silence, relaxing, having time for thoughts and talks. A feeling, that a quick cigarette between two business dates can’t procure.

The text is a free translated extract from the German book “Die Wasserpfeife – Tradition und Jugendkultur” (“The Waterpipe – Tradition and Youth Culture”) by Felix B.




Enhancement of Tobacco

In todays hookahs, people are mostly smoking flavoured fruit tobacco. But that hasn’t always been like that: As mentioned before, the initial form of hookah tobacco was Tömbeki, consisting of the entire leaf. It wasn’t as moist as the tobacco today, because it was moistured only by the morning dew. The tobacco was layed down on the ground over the night. so it was damp in the morning. A good smoking experience depended on the right degree of humidity of the tobacco leaves. The used tobacco mainly grew in steppe and was quite spicy.

The tobacco, the way it is used today, emerged only in the 19th century in Egypt. Tobacco was a rare good, that simple farmers and workers couldn’t afford to buy. But since they also wanted to have the luxury, that the rich people had, they were looking for a way to create as much smoke as possible with as little tobacco as possible. To do so, they were moisturing the tobacco with a fluid, similar to honey – very much like the molasses of today. This kind of tobacco finaly was industrially manufactured in 1917 the first time, by an egypt manufacturer called “Nakhla”. A tobacco with the name “Nakhla Zaghoul” is based on a traditional Egyptian recipe and is still available. Later on, they startet to add flavours to the fluids to make them taste like fruits and other things. The classical Tömbeki nowadays is hard to find, only with old nomad people or in traditional coffee houses, although even there, the modern flavoured hookah tobacco takes over more and more.
According to a legend, the flavoured tobacco has been invented by accident: An Egypt was sitting down for dinner and had a dessert, which was a little cake with a sirup filling. When he bit it, the sirup spilled and fell on to the coal of the burning hookah beside him. The taste, that he experienced afterwards, surprised and convinced him so much, that from that day on, he aromatized his tobacco with sirup on purpose.

This text is a free translated extract from the book “Die Wasser – Tradition und Jugendkultur” (“The Waterpipe – Tradition and Youth Culture”) by Felix B.




Hookah Rules


During the long history of waterpipes, which ranges over different areas of the earth, a smoking culture with hard rules has emerged. Many smokers do not follow these rules, but still they are interesting to know – simply because they are traditional.
In the golden age of hookahs it was possible to become barred from the society for not obeying these rules. Maybe everybody should start following these rules again, to experience an even more relaxed hookah party.

1. You should, if possible, smoke in good company. Smoking on your own is not prohibited, though, but originally smoking hookah is a social event and a symbol for hospitality.

2. The hookah should be positioned on the floor. Putting the waterpipe on the ground is a tradition, that has emerged slowly. You will rarely find a hookah on a table in Arabia or Egypt.

3. It is not allowed to pose the own hookah on a higher place then the hookahs of others. This would be interpreted as disrespect and would lead to an uncomfortable atmosphere.

4. You shouldn’t smoke a cigarette while sitting in hookah round. This on one hand tampers with the taste and smell of the hookah, and on the other hand gives you the appearance of being unpatient.

5. The conversation should be calm. Talking loudly and gesturing hecticly would disturb everyones rest and spoil the comfortable atmosphere.

6. The hose must not be passed on to the next smoker in the round, but it should be put on the table or hung to the waterpipe, so the next one can take it anytime he wants, and wouldn’t feel like being set under pressure to smoke.

This text is a free translated extract from the book “Die Wsserpfeife – Tradition und Kúgendkultur” (“The Waterpipe – Tradition and Youth Culture”) by Felix B.




Ever since Mughal Emperor Akbar invented the hubble-bubble (aka Hookah) mankind has been cooling the smoke he puts into his lungs.

Provided here, (in addition to the early “super-relaxed” stoner shown) is a group of names for what smoke gobblers today call a bong.

Whatever you call it, hold the smoke in a long time.  Just like a roach hotel…draw it in, but don’t let it out.

Marra Pipe
ghalyan (or ghelyoon)
Okka Pipe
One Hitter
Water Pipe








Shisha, the origins of which are disputed (some say India, others Persia or Turkey) is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavoured tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet, enthusiasts say, making it an enjoyable and unrushed experience.


According to Chaouachi, studies led by independent researchers at the Royal University of Saudi Arabia have shown that shisha smoke is 30 times less concentrated in chemicals than cigarette smoke, contradicting the WHO’s warnings. “It is ludicrous and anti-scientific to claim that hookah or shisha smoke is 200 times more toxic than cigarette smoke,” he says. “While about 5,000 chemicals have been identified so far in cigarette smoke, chemists and pharmacologists from Saudi Arabia only found 142 chemicals in shisha smoke. Also, a medical team in Pakistan found that shisha smoke can be much less carcinogenic and radioactive than cigarette smoke.”







Nargile History in a Nutshell

Although the water pipe is an established feature of Turkish culture, it originated in India by emptying a coconut and dipping in a straw. In the 16th century, the pipe – called nargile in Turkish – found its way to the Ottoman Empire. The better quality ones were ceramic, but glass bowls are more common. The nargile became popular in the 1700s, at the height of the Ottoman Empire. It even became a status symbol towards the end of the Ottoman Empire. Smoking with the sultan was considered the highest honor.

With the arrival of cigarettes during World War II, smoking the water pipe briefly became less popular. But the late 1990s marked the revival of nargile. Nowadays, you’ll notice young adults, both men and women alike, enjoying its calming vapors.








He quotes a 19th century writer called Jessup: “Do the Syrian people all smoke? Almost all of them. They speak of it as ‘drinking a pipe, drinking a cigar’ and you would think that they look upon tobacco as being as necessary to them as water. Old and young men, women and even children smoke, smoke while they work or rest…They even measure time by their pipes so that if you ask the distance to a point in a journey, the answer very likely will be, it is two, or three, or five pipes distant…The Orientals [sic] spend so much time smoking that someone has said ‘the Moslims [sic] came into power with the Koran in one hand, and the sword in the other, but will go out with the Koran in one hand and the pipe in the other!’”

Lebanon, back in those days, was part of Syria and one of Tripoli’s major exports was tobacco (along with soap, silk, sponges and citrus fruits). Tobacco, according to Christian, was incorporated into courtship and wedding rituals, a suitor being expected to present lots of sugar, coffee and tobacco to the bride’s father, conforming to a popular Islamic notion of fertility and plenty. “The quality and price of tobacco as well as the nargile functioned as a social marker distinguishing the owner,” he writes.

Christian has illustrated his article with a photograph of six men posing with nargiles in the 1870s, captioned by one of them: “ Les mauvais sujets de Tripoli” – The Bad Boys of Tripoli. All are related and are Greek Orthodox Christians and served as vice-consuls, one of whom converted to Protestantism after an alliance with the daughter of the American and Belgian vice-consul in Tripoli. The nargile, Christian suspects, had an immoral connotation when associated with wine bottles or opium. But the men are all wearing the red tarbush – the kind of hat that King Farouk wears in photographs and which I still remember in the streets of Beirut in the late 1970s – which means that they were ostentatiously Ottoman.


Exotic | How To Make a Fruit Head Hookah | Pineapple Fruit Shisha Bowl


Inhale the Pleasure of an Unhurried Ottoman Past



‘Cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run,” he said. ”When you smoke a nargile you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company. Nargile smokers have a much more balanced approach to life than cigarette smokers.”


There are said to be fewer than a dozen nargile salons left in Istanbul, and a few in nearly every other Turkish city. They are the remains of thousands that sprouted here after the first tobacco leaves arrived from America in 1601.

In the early part of the 17th century, Turks took to smoking with a passion. In 1633, outraged at the rapid spread of this new vice, Sultan Murad IV banned smoking on pain of death. But his prohibition merely drove smokers underground, and 14 years later officials conceded defeat and lifted it.

Nargiles soon became important status symbols. Offering one to a guest became an important sign of trust, and withholding it could be taken as a serious insult. In 1841 a diplomatic crisis broke out between France and the Ottoman Empire after the Sultan declined to offer the French Ambassador a chance to smoke with him.


In days gone by, some smokers used to fill their nargiles with illicit drugs. Sultans used to smoke a special mixture of opium, perfume and crushed pearls.

”The important thing is not what you put in the pipe, but who is with you while you’re smoking,” said Ahmed Metin, a 48-year-old Turkish sailor who makes the Erzurum Salon his base when he is in Istanbul.

”It’s a complete experience,” he continued. ”In a cafe like this one you find the good people, the old people, the interesting people. As long as there is a need for company and friendship, as long as people want to stop and think, there will be nargile cafes.”


Hitting a high the Ottoman way with tobacco

(DAILY NEWS, 20/09/2014)

Christopher Columbus may not have been the first person to discover the Americas, but he was among the first Europeans to observe the use of tobacco as medicine there. That was how in the 16th century tobacco was originally introduced in Europe – as a cure-all medicine that could tackle everything from headaches to cancer. (Today one of the vaccines that are being developed to fight Ebola is based on tobacco.)

The nargile (known as the water pipe, hookah, hubbly bubbly, shisha and by other names) is said to have originated in the Persian Empire and then came to the Ottomans during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim (r. 1512-1520). The Persians are supposed to have gotten the nargile from India where the word nargile means coconut. It seems likely that the tobacco they used though was not the kind that subsequently gained in popularity and that we are more familiar with.

This earlier date is collaborated by a story told about Mimar Sinan at the completion of Süleymaniye Mosque in 1558. Rumor came to Sultan Süleyman’s ear that his architect was smoking a nargile in the middle of the main mosque hall. The sultan became angry when he found Mimar Sinan there apparently smoking tobacco. The architect was, however, just blowing on the nargile to listen to the sound the bubbles made to test the structure’s acoustics.

According to Refik Ahmet Sevengil, tobacco was first brought to Istanbul in 1600, but he doesn’t say whether the tobacco came from Iran or from Europe. However, it didn’t catch on at first; that didn’t happen until 1636, although he gives no reason for such a specific date. On the other hand, though it seems rather unlikely, Balıkhane Nazırı Alı Rıza Bey states in his work, “Bir Zamanlar Istanbul,” that tobacco came in 1687 and was first used for medicine, becoming popular only in 1735.

Istanbul’s Tıryaki Çarşısı (Addict Market), well-known for its coffeehouses, was a single line of stores that was built as part of the Süleymaniye Complex and stretched below two madrassahs. Some of the stores sold folding lanterns made of oil cloth, useful for keeping in one’s pocket in case of being caught outside on a dark night before the days of electricity, while other shops sold pen cases. It was also the site of the Slave Market. And then there were the coffeehouses where the men of Istanbul gathered to while away the time chatting, playing games such as chess, drinking coffee and relaxing over a nargile. Coffee cups would be lined up around the fireplace while wooden pipes and nargiles were to be found in the corners.

In 1623, Murat IV decreed that coffeehouses be closed and it was forbidden to drink coffee and wine or use tobacco and opium. The sultan not only ordered his imperial guard corps to patrol the various districts, but he himself also prowled the streets, ordering the immediate execution of anyone he caught. Out of fear that the smoke would be seen and reported, addicts would take the leaves and pound them into small pieces, inhaling the dust, that is, snuff.

Following the death of Murat IV in 1639, the law was changed and coffeehouses were once again allowed in Istanbul. In 1640, a Jew opened a snuff shop in Galata for the first time. In spite of the prohibition – Murat IV wasn’t the only sultan to issue a decree against tobacco – the sultans couldn’t really make their decrees effective; they simply drove it underground. Members of the palace and in particular the imperial dynasty smoked pipes and the nargile. And as tobacco was heavily taxed, prohibiting its use meant lost revenue. In any case the prohibition never seems to have been applied outside of Istanbul so coffeehouses in places like Bursa flourished.

Ali Rıza Bey describes addicts as follows: “Those whose nature was inclined to addiction counted coffee, tobacco, tömbeki [a tobacco especially prepared for the nargile that originally came from Iran] and snuff as giving a light high. Most of those who used snuff habitually were leading high-level intellectuals, sheykhs, property owners, writers and more serious people like these. Among these there would be lengthy conversations about the type of snuff and its excellence… When snuff addicts met on the street, they would immediately offer their snuff case and they called this ‘sidewalk party.’” One such discussion centered around whether to add rose water or sea water to the tobacco.

Ali Rıza Bey later describes those who were addicted to tömbeki: “Some of the curious who were addicted to tömbeki would immediately smoke the nargile that the coffeehouse owners had prepared… Those who were addicted to tobacco and didn’t want to smoke the pipes in the coffeehouses would carry their own pipes in their pockets. Those who were curious like this would have their own sectioned pipes made.” These were usually in three sections and would be carried in a broadcloth purse, along with the bowl part, that would be carried on a belt underneath a person’s clothes. A medium-sized pipe existed and was used by vezirs and prominent officials in their caiques and private quarters but in official places they would smoke the long version.

Those who became addicted to opium, a paste that was supposed to have been good for hemorrhoids and chest illnesses, had been addicted to wine when they were young and later switched to opium. For those who used opium secretly, they would always drink coffee after they’d used it and they would always carry the drug with them in a box.

The addicts would spend their entire days in known coffeehouses which were near Tahtakale, Tophane, Silivrikapı, Mevlevihane Kapı and on a road leading to İshakpaşa, according to Ali Rıza Bey. He also points out that these places didn’t resemble the usual coffeehouse but were filthy, with blackened ceilings, covered in cobwebs, falling plaster, glass that had never been cleaned, dark and filled with disgusting smells.

In spite of the occasional prohibitions that often originated in religious circles, observance of the holy month of Ramadan doesn’t seem to have mattered. As soon as one had broken the fast in the evening, the pipes and nargiles would come out among the women as well as the men. In fact a number of paintings by Orientalist artists show both sexes smoking. Coffeehouses were equally welcoming for the late night crowd during Ramadan.




Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine


A critique of the WHO TobReg’s “Advisory Note” report entitled: “Waterpipe tobacco smoking: health effects, research needs and recommended actions by regulators



Background and aim

The World Health Organisation Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) has issued in 2005 an “Advisory Note” entitled: “Waterpipe Tobacco Smoking: Health Effects, Research Needs and Recommended Actions by Regulators“. “Waterpipe” smoking is now considered a global public health threat and the corresponding artefact is actually known in the world under three main terms: hookah, narghile and shisha. This important report, the first ever prepared by WHO on the subject, poses two major problems. On one hand, its bibliographical references dismiss world chief relevant studies. On the other, it contains a certain number of errors of many orders: biomedical, sociological, anthropological and historical. The purpose of the present study is to highlight, one by one, where these weaknesses and errors lie and show how this official report can be considerably improved.



It is said (page 1) that, according to Chattopadhyay, “waterpipes have been used to smoke tobacco and other substances by the indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia for at least four centuries” [2]. The quotation is not accurate because this author does not mention, at any point, any of these facts in his article. Besides, evidence concerning the Indian origin of the hookah is weak. As a matter of fact, the most ancient traces were found in Southern or Eastern Africa [3]. For instance, bowls of water-pipes were dug out in 1971 by J.C. Dombrowski in the Lalibela cave (Ethiopia). C14 datation situated their use around years 1320 +/- 80 [3, 4]. As for the large scale emergence of the narghile in society, either for an individual or collective use, historical accounts show that it was simultaneous with the appearance of the public coffee-houses and the adoption of tobacco in the Middle East region: near the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century (ibid.)(see Figure 2). For the authors of the report, the myth of the hookah as a safer way of smoking is as old as its invention in India. However, there is no point in insisting on the necessity of this Indian origin because it is also a myth itself.



Two ceramic smoking pipe-bowls, excavated in Lalibela cave,  Begemeder Province, Ethiopia, were radicarbon dated to 1320±80. A modified thin layer, cinematographic technique, applied to the pipe residues, yields positive tests for cannabis, derived  compounds. Long-lived cannabinoids, produced by the heat of smoking from short-lived psychoactive ingredients in cannabis, make identification possible.

The origin and spread of Cannabis sativa, are obscured, although the plant has achieved world wide distribution, and is commonly  known under such names as bhang, ganja, hemp, marijuana, etc. The psychoactive properties especially of its tropical varieties are well known as they have apparently been since the 3rd millennium B.C. The plant is mentioned in a 2737 B.C. pharmacological treatise  attributed to the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung. Another possible reference occurs in Vedic texts from India around 2000-1400 B.C., while Herodotus gives a clear description of the Scythian practice of throwing hemp seeds on hot rocks in a confined space. By 950 A.D. the use of cannabis was well-established in Arabia; Marco Polo’s account of the alleged hashish-related assassin’s cult of Hasan-ibn-Sabbah (11th century) is also well-known, if not necessarily accurate. We have now chemical evidence that the plant was smoked in Ethiopia in the 13-14th century A.D.

 According to Vavilo’s  phytogeographic postulates, the site of species formation of cannabis sativa was in central or Southeast Asia; the plant was probably domesticated in the same region.


Archaeologically, we conclude that some variety of Cannabis sativa was smoked around Lake Tana in the 13th-14th century, in much the same way as it is today.   This date is clearly earlier than the introduction of tobacco to Africa from the new World, following Columbus journey. How and when the plant, and knowledge of its psychoactive properties, reached this area is unknown; an Arabic source seems probable.



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