History of Hookah

Hookah means a “pot jar” or a “cavity hollow”, which came from the word haqqa, or huqqa. U.S. Nation calls it Shisha. It is also called by various names globally, including shisha, sheesha, okka, kalyan, nargeela, narglie, narghile, ghelyoon, ghalyan, goza, and hubble-bubble, among others. Most of these names originated from Arabian, Indian, Persian, Turkish, Somalian, and Ethiopian origin.

The Hookah is termed as lula or lulava in Albania. In Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, the hookah is identified as chillim. In the Maldives, it is Guduguda, and in Kashmir it is jajeer. While in the Philippines, it is recognised as hitboo, using the same as seasoned cannabis. Moreover, the hookah is also called the marra pipe in the United Kingdom.

Types of Hookah in Ancient Times

In ancient times, persons used smoking through a hookah in a very awkward way. Around forty to fifty litre holes made in the ground filled by clay. People commonly throw large stones inside these holes, while covering these gaps with dried branches, and also clay. The jet of smoke, which hit the rocks, broke into bubbles and was later unadulterated through the water. These types of structures were usually observed in the rocky terrains of southern parts of Africa, and Afghanistan, dating around 8000 B.C. In the Turkish Empire, the seasoned tobacco was made from soaking pieces of tobacco in various sweet taste maple syrups, which are later overlaid on water, covering it with hot charcoals placed above, while the smoke absorbed through cold water for cooling and filtering purpose.

At those times, persons felt alcoholic just by inhaling solutions made from herbs and glucose. In ancient India, people use to have hookah, making it from dried coconuts, partially filling them with water, and sticking them with two straws. While, in Egypt’s early history, people use to smoke hookah created from round pumpkins. In Iran, people started smoking Ajami, tasteless tobacco through their hookahs.

Even, in present times, the earliest kind of hookah uses tumbak or a raw form of tasteless tobacco accustomed in South Asian villages. It usually delivered smokes when having direct contact with hot charcoal. However, when compared to distilled shishas, the above technique offers a higher punch of tobacco and nicotine. In recent times, hookahs are cast out of stainless steel and aluminium, instead of substandard mixtures of different metals, including brass and copper. Better hoses or pipes nowadays crafted from silicon rubber materials, compared to previously used wires and leather items. Thus, these modern items shape new-age hookahs giving them an enduring quality, apart from reducing foul smells, and no oxidation process, or bacterial infection.

Although modern hookahs have their benefits, still shishas with aging equipment are harnessed, due to the unavailability of new-age materials accompanied by higher manufacturing costs.

Culture in Different Countries


Now, hookah came into existence around the 15th century in India. It all started with the business expanse of East Indian Company, which started exporting glass to India.

It is important to mention the Mughal period when hookah was invented by Abu’l-Fath Gilani, a physician in Akbar’s court, and Persian in origin. So, shisha came into existence in the city of Fatehpur Sikri, and it spread out from the Indian subcontinent to countries in the Persian Gulf. Another theory suggests that hookah might have its origin in the Persian dynasty of Safavid, and later it expanded further to the Indian mainland from here only.

In modern times, there are various bars and clubs across various cities in India, providing different types of shishas, right from non-tobacco sorts, and molasses or vegetable glycerol infused with various flavours. A fishing village named, Koyilandy on the western coast of India once created and exported a great number of hookahs, called the Koyilandy or Malabar hookahs.


Hookahs were a conventional smoking tool in Bangladesh, especially used by old aristocrats of Bengali Muslim landowners. Due to the effect of globalization, hookah parlours spread like a wildfire between 2008 and 2011, wherein, flavoured hookahs came to the forefront at the beginning of the year 2000.  But, in recent times, the Government went on to abolish shisha bars to restrict the use of illegal drugs. Once, in the 1973 Bangladeshi general elections, a hookah was also used as an electoral trademark for a candidate.


Conventional wooden hookahs once personified the eminent class of people in Nepal. In recent times, Pokhara, and Kathmandu have special sport-related hookah bars. But, shishas are observing a downtrend, due to wider accessibility of cheap quality cigarettes.


Hookah or shisha means boiling the root in Persian culture. In Persian culture, people use solid pipes created out of real snakeskin and stick the same into hookahs made from pumpkin, earthenware, and nut. Persians used tobacco for smoking shisha. In Persia, in the times of Suleiman I, different galyans or water pipes were intricately designed, even with gold and silver hoses.

Middle East

Previously in the middle ages, regional craftsperson started the hookah culture, recognizing it as a priceless artifact.  Smoking hookahs is primarily done with a single or double piped variety, while a triple or four-piped hookah is also used sometimes. Hookahs are usually served in most of the cafes in Middle East countries.


Just like Persian culture, smoking lovers in Turkey originated around 500 years ago and had shaped their hookahs similarly to modern shisha shapes. They modified the ancient clay type hookah bases into a glass and expensive metals. Although they also stick to snake skins for their hoses. The patriarchal communes in Turkey have continuously maintained their tradition of smoking shishas. The tradition of smoking nargile or hookah started around the 17th century. Having shishas also provoked a political crisis between France and the bygone Ottoman rulers.

US and Canada

Commencing between the 1960s and 1970s, shishas came to the forefront as a favourite relaxation tool, wherein, instead of charcoals, open flames were used. In present times, hookahs are available at specialized shisha shops, apart from gas stations. Currently, some states in the US have imposed hookah smoking inside a bar. However, in some cities hookah parlours have flourished in their business, especially targeting the youngsters.

South Africa

Hookah is informally called okka pipe, or hubbly bubbly, and a favourite option for Indian communities in South Africa. Smoking is legal in public spots, like picnic places, and beaches, along with bars. Here, the container or bowl or head is also known as clay pot. The hoses as pipes and the air release plug is called the clutch.

Conclusively, we can say hookah, once a part of an elite class of people, has now changed its trend, becoming the everyday recreational tool, especially for youngsters. It has bridged the gap between ethnic classes, political ideologies, and religion while showcasing the deeply embedded philosophies into a broad social manifestation.


Check our Blogs on: How to set up Hookah, The Best drinks To Enjoy with Hookah.





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