The first time I smoked the Hookah was in Istanbul, Turkey. I had been wandering the cobblestone streets by the sea when yet another shopkeeper invited me in for a cup of apple tea.
Though I was already buzzing from countless similar invitations, I thought it would be rude to refuse and so I entered what appeared to be a dodgy looking travel agency. Dominating the only table in the room was a large and ornate glass Hookah.
While I had seen Hookahs in smoke shops and in films back home, I had no idea how it worked or, more importantly, what it smoked.
Noticing my curiosity he said, “You want to make Hookah?” I smiled hesitantly and responded, “Umm, ok, well, what’s in…” Abruptly he cut me off and proclaimed, “Ok, we make Hookah!”
Nervous yet intrigued, I took the hose and began to smoke. “Breath deep” he said as I felt the tickle of the apple-flavored smoke on the back of my throat. When my lungs could take no more, I began to exhale.
To my surprise, a seemingly endless mushroom cloud of thick white smoke bellowed out of me. Startled and gitty over the amount of smoke, I began to chuckle. “That’s good” I said as I looked at my host. He beamed happily at me, content in my contentment.
However just as soon as I passed the hose back to him, the world around me began to wobble. Instinctively, I feebly attempted to dominate the insecurity while anxiety ensued. But it was no use. With no other choice, I allowed myself to succumb to the hookahs hypnosis. And I was glad I did.
Over the next few minutes, I began to enjoy the feeling of instability. I felt high and happy yet completely relaxed and lethargic. It was like nothing I had ever felt.
From that moment on, I was hooked on the Hookah.
Over the course of my travels throughout the Middle East, I indulged in the Hookah countless more times. However, it was only until I returned to the western world did I endeavor to learn more about my new guilty pleasure.
The History Of The Hookah
Since ancient times, the soothing smoke of the Hookah has coaxed even the most irate turban sporting shower abstaining cab driver (or donkey Jockey) into sublime submission to Allah.
Joking aside, the Hookah is believed to have developed in northwestern India around 1000 years ago. It was initially believed to have been constructed from wood and coconuts. And it’s primary purpose at the time was as a medium for smoking opium and hashish.
However, as it moved westward into Persia, it’s design was refined and the smoking of a dark tobacco known as “Tombeik” was adopted. Today, from downtown Delhi, to the corner cafes of Cairo, the Hookah is a salient centerpiece throughout the Middle East.
However, due to the evolution of the hookah as it traversed the Middle East, the Hookah now assumes many different names depending on ones locality. In Turkey, for example, it is know as “Narghile,” and in Jordan it goes by “Arghile.” Both of which are incarnations of the Sanskrit word for coconut. Finally in Egypt it is called “Shisha.”
So why do we use he word Hookah in English? As one might expect, the Hookah received its name after the butchering of an Indian word by a colonial Briton.
While the name may vary across countries there is one customary feature that persists throughout. That being, the Hookah is almost always accompanied by a very sugary cup of tea.
The Hookah & Hashish
Throughout much of the Middle East, smoking Hashish is technically illegal and also against Islamic law. In the result, most Hookah bars will not offer Hashish. However, depending on how liberal the country, if you really want to smoke hashish, generally all you have to do is ask. More, it is not uncommon to find people smoking Marijuana or Hashish from the Hookah in their homes. Today, like the past, hashish remains a popular Hookah ingredient despite the laws against it.
The Hookah & Health
Like cigarette tobacco, the coal roasted, molasses covered, fruit flavored tobacco distinct to the Hookah is addictive. While some argue that the reduced frequency of Hookah vs cigarette usage makes it less harmful, other contend that long Hookah sessions make it more dangerous. Either way, any type or amount of smoke inhaled into ones lungs is detrimental to ones health. Therefore it is best to indulge in the Hookah with moderation.
How To Buy Your Own Hookah
If you are in Europe or the US, you may have noticed a variety of Hookahs at your local smoke shop. However, if you aren’t into paying a few hundred dollars and are willing to wait a week or two, ordering online is your best bet.
A large and high quality Hookah direct from Egypt will only set you back around 50$. While there are many sites you can buy a Hookah from, Ebay is usually the cheapest option.