Hookah History

Hookah Origins

The origin of Hookah smoking can be dated back to hundreds of years ago, and its initial traces have been found in the North Western provinces of Indian in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. According to Cyril Elgood (PP.41, 110) who does not mention his source, it was in India where Hakim Abu’l-Fatḥ Gīlānī (d. 1588), an Iranian physician at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542 – 1605 AD) invented the idea. Following the European introduction of tobacco to India, Hakim Abul Fateh Gilani a descendant of Abdul-Qadir Gilani came from Gilan, a province in the north of Iran, to India. He later became a physician in the court of Mughal and raised concerns after smoking tobacco became popular among Indian noblemen. He subsequently envisaged a system which allowed smoke to be passed through water in order to be ‘purified’. Gilani introduced the ḡalyān after Asad Beg, the ambassador of Bijapur, encouraged Akbar to take up smoking. Following popularity among noblemen, this new device for smoking soon became a status symbol for the Indian aristocracy and gentry. In the Arab world, people smoke it as part of their culture and traditions. Social smoking is done with a single or double hose, and sometimes even more numerous such as a triple or quadruple hose in the forms of parties or small get-togethers. When the smoker is finished, either the hose is placed back on the table signifying that it is available, or it is handed from one user to the next, folded back on itself so that the mouthpiece is not pointing at the recipient. Most cafés in the Middle East offer shishas. Cafés are widespread and are amongst the chief social gathering places in the Arab world (akin to public houses in Britan). Some expatriateBritons arriving in the Middle East adopt shisha cafés to make up for the lack of pubs in the region, especially where prohibition is in place. In Syria, sheesha is widely used, called argila, it is available in almost every corner. It has become part of Syria’s everyday culture. People are often seen smoking on the side of the streets, parks, bus stops even sheesha cafes are seen fully vacant in the late hours of the night. It is normal to see a female smoking sheesha in Syria. It is also normal to see police officers smoking while on duty. It is a very sociable activity, often mixing well with a game of Tawla (Backgammon) or cards and tea.

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