The Origin of Narghile

Several hypotheses on the birthplace of narghile must be taken into account.They concern Europe, America, India, Persia and Africa. Those who try hard to write the official history of tobacco mention an American origin and a European origin for the transmission of its use modes, as the common pipe, the chibouque or even narghile. Such an argument states that the Europeans would have taught Asian and African peoples how to smoke, particularly through the pipe. A consequence is that cannabis would have been inhaled, neither in Europe, nor in Africa, nor anywhere else, before the arrival of tobacco.

Narguile water pipe

The Narghile

A water-pipe consists of various parts: The body, bowl, tube and mouthpiece:

Body: This is the part where the bowl is placed.It looks like a decanter. It is filled with water. This water cleans the soot belched out by the burning tobacco and also to absorb the nicotine.Though the body is usually made of glass or metal, you could find more elegant ones made out of porcelain with gold, silver or colorful paintings.

Bowl: Tobacco is put in the bowl which is pierced and covered with a conical cap in order that the flame be sheltered on windy days.

Tube: This is the tube where the smoke goes throught. There may be more than one tube so that two or more people can smoke together while chatting.

Mouthpiece: put at the end of the tube to smoke.


Narghile Tobacco

The tobacco takes two or even three main forms. The first one is the mu'essel and literally means "honeyed", named so because of its ingredients like treacle (molasses) or honey used as agglutinant bonds. Treacle (molasses) is a sugar by-product. The second form is "tumbâk" which is pure tobacco. "Jurâk", mainly of Indian origin, can be considered as an intermediate substance among both first ones. It is very appreciated in the Arabian peninsula. Fruits and oils would be some of its ingredients.

Narghile in society

Narghile is popular as well as with men as with women (but mostly smoked in Turkey by men), as well as with young people as with their elders. Indeed, it symbolizes conviviality, serenity and harmony. Narghile is something to be smoke in groups. Narghile smokers smoke in group to let conversation naturally take place among them. Narghile has a collective form practice even if it is sometimes individual.

Narghile to rent in a narghile bar

Narghile in Turkey

Water-pipes was brought to Anatolia in the 17th century. Today, Turkey is not any more that country where Pierre Loti, a great amateur of narghiles used to live. Today, those places fitted out to devote to this art, called "narghile bars", can be listed on one's fingers. Most of the famous cafés where the peculiar narghile atmosphere prevailed actually disappeared. But there are still some districts where the "survivors" are to be found in Istanbul: around the Grand Bazaar, in some tourist spots and in some specific districts of Istanbul. The narghile bars are surrounded with the smell of various narghile tobaccos (rose, mint, orange,etc.). While smoking, people would enjoy also a Turkish Tea or Turkish Coffee and would also play backgammon or cards. Tourist usually love the Turkish Apple Tea. No alcohol drink is served. Tourists are welcome and they would try to smoke narghile and enjoy the atmosphere of the coffee shop.

Narghile at the Ottoman Empire

Social frontiers gave to some travelers the illusion of "class-less" societies in the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless, one should know that this last one was extremely divided, according to social, professional or religious memberships. Such a social promiscuity even worried political and religious authorities. Moreover, their fears led to disastrous episodes of ban on cafés, coffee and tobacco by Sultan Murad IV who wanted this way to put an end to the transgression of limits between social groups.

Smoking waterpipe at old Constantinople

Narghile in the world

Narghile is still used in various countries around the globe such as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Greece, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Iran, India, Afghanistan and China. In some of those countries narghile is more popular than in Turkey. Syria has a prosperous narghile industry which exports to many countries of the region an impressive variety of water vessels and other essential elements of the artifact. Today in Egypt, more than in any other, the narghile makes an exhibition of itself almost everywhere and in every place. An interesting question is to know if the powerful film production of this country, massively broadcast on the regional scale, has been in a position to influence smoking behaviors in other countries. Such behaviors would have been at the origin of a revival of narghile as in Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon or Jordan.

In current modern Iran, the narghile life-style continues. For instance, in Darban, a small town in the South of Teheran, women, alone or accompanied with their husband or mother, find the road of traditional tea-houses, in an atmosphere of holiday resort, delicious: sat down on a carpet, drink tea, eat sun flower seads, smoke a narghile and chat. India was known with the historic use of hookah. Narghile was in 1840, very common during dinners, at officers' tables, and its typical gurgling could be heard till late in the night. Old Indians even kept this custom when traveling abroad. The Chinese narghile has a very peculiar shape: it looks like a big and generally decorated lighter. Its little bowl is designed to embed tiny balls of tobacco smoked in two or three drafts.

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