Smoking shisha is an extremely popular activity and has very much become embedded as part of people’s social life in the present day. Despite our love for shisha, very few people are aware of its roots and origin. Let’s take a brief look in the history of the smoking sensation that took the world by storm…
There is huge debate as to where the shisha was first spotted. Turkey, Iran, Egypt, India and even the USA all claim to be inventors of the pipe.
What we do know is that the earliest use of shisha, or perhaps most appropriately the Narghile as it was known at the time, was in 15th Century India. This may come as a surprise considering the shisha is almost fully connected to Middle Eastern culture. What’s more is that the first ever hookahs looked nothing like the common hookahs of today. The base of the Shisha was made out of coconut shell and there was no shisha hose, instead, the pipe was connected directly to the hookah. Nowadays, we can’t imagine anybody smoking without the hose! This also suggests that smoking shisha was not so much of a social activity, rather a personal indulgence, for the wealthy.
The shisha eventually spread to Iran and accompanying states and became particularly popular in Turkey during the 17th century. It was during this period shisha smoking gradually transitioned into how we commonly know it today. The use of hookah became increasingly widespread to the extent that smokers became particular on what they smoked and how the tobacco was lit. As time passed shisha smoking did become more of a social activity, heavily used at parties as well as becoming subject to a fashion statement amongst women where it was commonplace to be photographed with the hookah. Different flavours were slowly introduced starting with berries, used initially as a decorative feature, people would enjoy watching them dance in the water as it bubbles. Later fruit juices and rose oil were used to extract different tastes. The tobacco was largely imported from Iran and, being dark tobacco, was strong in taste and had to be washed several times. Coal made from oak was the most common method to light the hookah.
The advent of cigarettes temporarily reduced shisha usage, however it still got mentions in popular literature such as Alice Adventures in Wonderland. The shisha revival began in the USA where open flames were used to light the hookah rather than coal. After suffering another fall in popularity, it once again became prominent.
This brings us to the present day. Throughout America, Europe and the Middle Eastern world shisha smoke is widely prevalent and enjoyed universally rather than limited to a particular culture. Hookah lounges can be located almost anywhere and is a popular activity to indulge in whilst socialising with friends. Moreover, it is easy to purchase your own shisha and flavours and create your own smoking experience at home. Age and gender does not impose any restriction on hookah smoke; young, old, male, female alike enjoy the hookah. Of course, the laws of tobacco of each respective country apply pertaining to age restrictions. When it comes to flavours, the variations are almost endless. The popularity of combining flavours adds even more options and variability to the taste.
Today, a good shisha experience is not only judged by the quality of the smoke but also its physical appearance. Brands such as Starbuzz and Apple on Top have taken shisha to an entirely new sphere.