The origins of the hookah come from the north western
provinces of India along the border of Pakistan in Rajasthan and
Gujarat, nearly a millennia back. These hookahs were simple, primitive,
and rugged in design, usually made from a coconut shell base and tube
with a head attached. They were designed to smoke opium, and hashish.
The hookah made its way through the Persian Kingdom, which also included
Pakistan, Afghanistan, much of Middle Asia and Arab parts of Northern
Africa. The hookah acquired tombeik on its way through Persia. Tombeik
is a dark shisha grown in modern day Iran. Tombeik is rinsed and packed
in the large older style heads where hot coal is applied directly to the
wet tombeik, which gives it a strong flavor. These heads and style of
hookah, referred to as "ghelune" in Persian, are available on our web
site. The hookahs designed in the Persian Empire are still hand crafted
with each one being cut from a piece of wood. In the 19th century,
cigarettes were made easily available and mostly women smoked the
ghelune because they were not on the go. Women used the ghelune in the
home for entertaining and as a past time.
When the hookah made its way into Turkey about 500 years
ago, it endured a surge of popularity among the upper class and
intellectuals and thus changing in design. The hookah grew in size and
complexity and became similar to designs that we are more familiar with
today. Brass and glass were added to the design and less wood was used.
Intricate paintings and mosaics were added for beauty and elegance. The
popularity grew into hookah coffee shops in Turk society two to three
centuries ago. A hookah bar waiter was treated similar to a chef because
of the preparation for hookah smoking. The packing and moisture was a
skill, and it was considered rude to touch the coals. Hookah smoking
migrated south into the Arab world from Turkey to Lebanon and Syria
where it got the name argile. It then spread into Egypt and Morocco,
where it is known as shisha. It is also know as the hubble bubble in
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Today, hookah bars are social
places where many people get together to discuss politics and local
events. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the hookah bars are for men only,
and in some Muslim countries, many believe that the hookah is haram, or forbidden..
Most hookah smoking countries serve Naklia shisha. Naklia
shisha is a combination of foreign shisha, honey molasses and dried
fruit. The smoke is filtered through ice cold water to make the smoke
cool and soothing. Older generations smoked hashish and opium, which has
created a negative stigma for the hookah that is smoked today. Slowly
society is accepting the hookah as more of a pipe for shisha instead of
illegal drugs. The hookah has been growing in popularity in the United
States and Europe since the experimentation of the 60's. Now they are in
every college head shop and Middle Eastern market across the entire U.S.
It is also growing in popularity in Japan.