HOOKAH: ORIGIN AND CULTURE {{ currentPage ? currentPage.title : "" }}

Hookah is also recognized as a water pipe, nargileh, shisha. For many, hookah is merely an alternative method of smoking tobacco. However, unexpectedly, it has a deeper cultural significance. Presently, smoking hookah tobacco using a hookah is thoroughly relished by people of all classes, but formerly, it was restricted to the people of regal and gallant ranks. It used to be a symbol of status, and sharing the hookah pipe stood as an emblem of trust. Anciently, a ceremony was performed after a reconciliation or pact between two or more people or parties.

The hookah has a few exclusive characteristics, which make it the perfect option for sharing a smoke. Firstly, the hookah tobacco burns long; the mouthpiece is relatively hygienic, the featured water filtration system, and above all, the flavored shisha. Let us dive deeper into our favorite smoking apparatus’s origin and its exclusive cultural significance.


It first originated in the 16th century in India when Portuguese trading ferries regularly shipped Brazilian tobacco leaves and other commodities across the subcontinent. The leaves also reached the Indian ports and traded into the major inland cities. As the tale goes, a Moghul ambassador offered some tobacco leaves to emperor Akbar.

Akbar’s Persian physician suggested that the smoke be passed through water before inhaling it to avoid its health effects. Hence, a chiseled glass vase was procured; thus, we got the first hookah.


In the 16th century, the Portuguese instituted tobacco leaves to Persians in Iran. Though smoking tobacco was made illegal by the Shah of Iran, it was heavily traded and smoked among the Persian nobles using a device named Galyan. Persian galyans are very different from the early Indian hookahs and were generally made of metal or wood with artistic carvings. Since it was a Persian physician who created hookah in India, it is hard to rule out if hookah was first conceived in India or existed in Persia.


Some even believe that it was conceived in Ethiopia during the 12th century. The remnants of hookahs were discovered in the ancient Ethiopian caves. The name nargileh came from Sanskrit, which means coconut, which advocates the theory that the apparatus are made using coconut shells.


Since its inception, hookah symbolizes amity, faith, appreciation, recreation, and pleasure. Sharing hookah pipe with the guests was considered a sign of trust among the imperial and noble rankings, and when not offered, it was viewed as provoking and rude. As a custom, the nobles used to have their portraits while smoking hookah to imply fortune and status.

No matter which country it is, every nation took pride in its manufacturing method for technological advancements, natural resources, and skilled artisans, making them magnificent and functional.

As shisha got more reasonably priced and hookah became accessible for the middle class, people started to smoke and share it from the comfort of their homes. Nowadays, there are hookah cafes for hookah enthusiasts to enjoy hookah with beverages. Presently, it has spread all over the world and brought several cultures together. From young to old, hookah is an enduring tradition existing for several generations.

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