Perhaps you are a rookie hookah user, or maybe you have been smoking from a hookah for many years. However, do you know exactly how far back the history of hookahs go? It goes way back, all the way to the 16th century to be precise. Hookahs are a huge part of the history of tobacco smoking and are an integral part of the Indian, Persian, Turkish and Egyptian and other Middle Eastern cultures.
What helped sparked the creation of the first ever hookah was the booming exportation of glass from the East India Trading Company to India. With the abundance of glass, people started creating what were the first ever prototypes of hookahs. It did not take long for the hookah to grow in popularity.
The device spread across several countries and people began using them to smoke Ajami, which is a strong, flavorless kind of tobacco.
It became especially popular amongst noblemen as a way to show off social status and significance. During the Ottoman Empire reign, sultans were known to take portraits with their hookahs as a way to illustrate their prestige.
In the 17th century, the hookah really took off in the Persian Empire. Persians began to smoke a dark leaf tobacco known as Haji. At this point in time, the use of hookahs were no longer limited to higher status individuals.
In the 18th century, the hookah made its way into the Turkish culture and we started seeing some innovations in the design. Blacksmiths would customize the hookahs by engraving religious symbols and markings. Much like with the Ottoman Empire, the Turks associated well-crafted hookahs with important social status. It would often be smoked after royal dinners and diplomatic meetings. The act of sharing a hookah was a way to display respect for another person. Failure to do so often led to serious confrontations and disputes.
In the 19th century, it made its way into the Middle East. The Egyptians would go on to produce the first ever flavored tobacco. They would mix honey or molasses with the tobacco. Soon after, they would create several new flavors by incorporating dried fruits such as lemon, grape, watermelon and mint.
Hookah’s became so popular in Egypt, they began to build the first ever shisha café’s which are still growing in worldwide popularity to this day. Shisha sessions were a way for people of different origins to sit down together, relax and ultimately build strong bonds with one another.
Eventually, in the 1900’s, the use of shisha became a regular sight on all continents. Today, the hookah industry is having a hard time keeping up with the demand as it has become so popular. Shisha café’s are multiplying across major cities in North America. Although the technology and design of the hookahs have vastly changed over the past 500 years, the tradition remains the same. Sharing your hookah with friends, family and visitors is still perceived as a great sign of respect.
When it comes to hookahs, there is nearly an infinite number of ways you can customize your setup to produce a unique shisha session. Different flavors, different combinations of multiple flavors, with nicotine, without nicotine, using water or other alternatives and the list goes on.