Narghile or arghileh is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavored tobacco, called as well Shisha whose vapor or smoke is passed through a water basin—often glass-based—before inhalation.
The Narghile was invented by an Irfan Shaikh of the Mughal Empire or originates from the time of the Safavid dynasty of Persia. from where it eventually spread to the east into India during that time. The Narghile also soon reached Egypt and the Levant during the Ottoman dynasty from neighboring Safavid dynasty, where it became very popular and where the mechanism was later perfected.
The word hookah is a derivative of “huqqa”, an Arabic term. Outside its native region, hookah smoking has gained popularity world wide.
Names and etymology
Shisha or sheesha (شيشة), from the Persian word shīshe (شیشه), meaning glass, is the common term for the hookah.
In Persia, hookah is called “Qalyān”. Persian qalyan is included in the earliest European compendium on tobacco, the tobacolgia written by Johan Neander and published in Dutch in 1622. It seems that over time water pipes acquired a Persian connotation as in eighteenth-century Egypt the most fashionable pipes were called Karim Khan after the Persian ruler of the day.
The widespread use of the Indian word “hookah” in the English language is a result of the British Raj, the British dominion of India (1858–1947), when large numbers of expatriate Britons first sampled the water pipe.
Following the European introduction of tobacco to Persia and India, Hakim Abu’l-Fath Gilani, who came from Gilan, a province in the north of Persia, migrated to Hamarastan. He later became a physician in the Mughal court and raised health 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 I to take up smoking. Following popularity among noblemen, this new device for smoking soon became a status symbol for the Indian aristocracy and gentry.
Social smoking is done with a single or double hose hookah, and sometimes even triple or quadruple hose hookahs are used at parties or small get-togethers. When the smoker is finished, s/he either places the hose back on the table, signifying that it is available, or hands it from one user to the next, folded back on itself so that the mouth piece 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.