Hookah in the 16th - 19th Centuries

Hookah or shisha is not a very new form of smoking. Although it seems relatively new to many people, it has been around for several years.

Here is a breakdown of its development:

The Earliest Hookah – 16th Century

The modern hookah is traced back to the 16th century in India. It was fuelled majorly by glass manufacturing, which resulted from the exportation of glass by the British East India Company.

Tobacco smoking at the time was very popular among people in the higher class. They tried purifying the smoke using water in a glass base called “shisha.” And that is where modern hookah came from.

 The culture had now acquired a new design that featured wooden shafts with another shaft connected to the heart where the smoker inhaled. This design quickly created a new way for noblemen to enjoy smoking in social joins.

“Nargileh” – the 17th Century

A century after the initial hookah, the culture spread to Persia, where dark leafy tobacco called Ajami was common. Creators of the time prided themselves in developing better aesthetics and redefining how the pipe looked. Serious woodworking techniques were employed, and for the first time, they became accessible to all people. This was when hookah servants emerged.

Hookah in Turkey – the 18th Century

As time went by, hookah kept spreading into other parts of the world. It found its way into the Turkish culture, where it continued blossoming through innovative ways. At this time, the use of wood started to diminish when blacksmiths started creating the brass design. They added royal and religious markings on the pipes, which initiated the modern construction. It became a true symbol of status.

Hookah in the Middle East – the 19th Century

The 19th century opened a floodgate for the hookah to spread into the Middle East. Traditional tobacco forms in Egypt were transformed into what they called Mu’Assel – the mixing of honey/molasses with tobacco. The term represents flavored tobacco because they added in dried lemon, grape, watermelon, and mint. 

The creators added the purge port to the shisha heart to cool down the tobacco. This is where a deeper integration of shisha into society started. It became a community promoter and united all classes.

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Smoking a hookah is nothing like smoking a cigarette...cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run...when you smoke a hookah, you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company.

Ismet Ertep