A Glimpse of the History of Hookah

Hookah is also known as kalian, nargileh, or shisha. It involves smoking flavored tobacco from a water pipe which is then passed among family or friends. Hookah is centered around socialization and promotes connectedness among the individuals who are participating. It is also deeply rooted in a cultural tradition. Continue reading to learn more about the history of hookah.

The History of Hookah

16th Century

The origins of hookah begin in the 16th century in India. The first hookah dates back to when Indian glass manufacturing started, as a result of exporting Indian glass via the British Eash Indian Company. During this time, more and more people began smoking tobacco, especially noblemen in high society. Hookah was invented in an attempt to purify smoke via water in a glass base known as shisha. With this new design in place, the hookah soon became known as a way for noblemen to show off their high social status.

17th Century

Hookah became a part of Persian culture where dark, strong leaf tobacco known as Ajami was used. The look of the pipe was redefined via various woodworking techniques which ended up putting the hookah innovation in motion. During this time, hookah first became accessible to everyone and the industry of hookah servants emerged.

18th Century

During the 18th century, shisha migrated into Turkish culture and continued to become more popular via means of even more innovation. The most recent appearance of the shisha was dated out and replaced with intricate brass designs and with religious and royal markings. Shisha was well known in Turkish high society and was a symbol of status. It was smoked following royal dinners and at diplomatic meetings. It also became an important sign of trust when shisha was offered to guests. Thus, withholding it could have been taken as an insult.

19th Century

It was during this period that the hookah tradition moved into the Middle East. Many people in Egypt used various forms of tobacco and mixed it with honey or molasses. It was also during this time when a purge port was integrated into the heart of shisha to cool down the tobacco in an effort to make the flavors more intense. This is what changed the course of the history of hookah entirely.

20th Century

Throughout this period, hookah traditions continued to deepen in cultures throughout Turkey, the Middle East, Persia, India, and in nearby countries including Armenia, Pakistan, and Israel. Every culture put its own spin on the design elements of pipes. By the late 1900s, hookah became popular on every continent as immigrants from these countries brought their customs with them to share a piece of their culture with different worlds.

21st Century

It was during this period that the hookah industry made its way into the United States as early pioneers discovered ways to improve the quality of products via modern technology. Innovations in various flavor options beyond just the traditional options were also made available.

Hookah has hardly broken from tradition today around the world and in the U.S. It is still seen as a way to show respect and provide good hospitality that started ages ago.