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The Historical Evolution of the Hookah

The Historical Evolution of the Hookah

For some people, hookah is a different way of smoking tobacco, but its cultural significance is deeper than you think. Today, all classes like to smoke hookah, but initially it was only used by the royal family, royal family and nobles. In addition to being a status symbol, sharing a hookah pipe becomes a symbol of trust; a ceremony performed after two parties (or more parties) reach an agreement or reconciliation. 


The hookah is deeply rooted in cultural traditions passed down from generation to generation in India, Persia, Turkey, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern families. Their posture is not just an entertaining social activity or a means of relaxation, it is also a way for family, relatives, friends, and business partners from these cultures to provide hospitality and strengthen mutual contact.  The unique characteristics of the hookah pipe make it very suitable for joint smoking: the tobacco burns for a long time, the (relatively) hygienic cigarette holder, the relaxing water filtration system and the Flavored Tobacco Molasses.


Hookah Invented in India


The hookah was invented in India by the physician Hakim Abul Fateh Geelani during Akbar’s rule, although some sources attribute the invention to the Safavid dynasty of Persia. Europeans adopted hookah from the Mughal Amirs. Akbar appears in the public twice a year, and every time someone sees him smoking a water pipe on an elephant's head.




Metal and Wood Pipes from Iran


Also in the 16th century, the Portuguese introduced tobacco to the Persians in Iran. Although the King of Iran Abbas the Great has banned smoking, it still conducts a large number of transactions and smoking among the Persian nobles. To smoke tobacco, a device called ḡalyān (or qalyān) is used, which roughly translates to "bubble" and "reservoir in a pipe." Unlike the early Indian water pipes, the water pipes of Persian ḡalyāns are usually made of metal or wood and decorated with artistic carvings and inscriptions. Considering that a Persian doctor conceived a water pipe in India, it is not clear whether the water pipe originated in India or existed in Iran before the incident.


In the 17th century, the hookah became part of Persian culture, using strong dark tobacco leaves called Ajami. Artisans pride themselves on aesthetics and redefine the appearance of pipes through joinery. For the first time, everyone had access to hookah and a hookah server industry appeared. Even the Shah at that time had his own servants to buy hookahs.

Brass Pipes from Turkey


From further innovations, hookah entered Turkish culture and continued to flourish throughout the 18th century. As blacksmiths began to make intricate brass designs and decorate pipes with royal and religious markings, the old-fashioned appearance of hookahs was gradually eliminated. Hookah is very prominent in the upper class of Turkey and is a true status symbol. It was drawn after the royal dinner and diplomatic conference. Providing guests with water pipes has become an important sign of trust, and failure to provide water pipes may be considered a serious insult.


Hookah Molasses from Middle East


The hookah tradition spread to the Middle East throughout the 19th century. In Egypt, the traditional form of tobacco seen earlier is remade into Mu`Assel by mixing honey or molasses with tobacco. From the Middle East, the culture of Hookah Molasses started. Mu`Assel directly translates as "add honey", but the word usually refers to flavored tobacco, and even adds dried lemon, grapes, watermelon, and mint. Hookah is deeply integrated into society in these places, so much so that Hookah cafes were established to accommodate more and more popular people. Hookah builds a community among customers, uniting all classes, races and genders. It is used as a way for people to relax, socialize and strengthen contact with each other.




Throughout the 20th century, the hookah tradition deepened in the cultures of India, Persia, Turkey, the Middle East, and neighboring countries such as Israel, Armenia, and Pakistan. However, by the late 1900s, hookah had migrated to almost every continent because immigrants from these countries brought this custom in order to share part of their culture in the new world.


Modern Hookah, Blend of Different Cultures and Tradition


In the early 21st century, when early pioneers found ways to use modern technology to improve product quality, the hookah industry emerged in the United States. Flavor selection innovation beyond the traditional is also designed to meet the needs of today's flavor diversity and preferences. 


Today, in the United States and around the world, the hookah has hardly broken tradition, because it is still revered as a way of showing respect and hospitality as it was 100 years ago. As tobacco became cheaper and waterpipes entered the middle class, family and friends smoked water pipes together in the comfort of their homes. Hookah is the core of the conversation, attracting people's attention to its many qualities. From the house to the street, the hookah enters the street cafe and enjoys it with coffee and tea. Today, hookahs are spread all over the world, helping to unite different cultures. This is an enduring tradition, passed on from generation to generation, suitable for all ages. Hookahs and related products are being sold online nowadays with diverse Flavored Tobacco Molasses. Families, close friends, and new acquaintances come together to deepen the connection to the hookah in the same way that generations do.


Hookah is part of a broad community that can bring people together regardless of their social class, religion, or political beliefs. Although the hookah has improved over the years, this practice is still deeply rooted in tradition. For many people of different nationalities, the hookah is a cultural expression.

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