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Where the hookah comes from? - August 23, 2013, 18h28
Well, everyone knows very well today that the hookah is not the next best thing when it comes to our health. Still, in Lebanon, it is available in most homes, it is a source of relaxation especially with its captivating, sometimes fruity, smoke ... But where does the hookah come from? The hookah is a water pipe which allows us to smoke a preparation of both fruit flavored and unflavored tobacco. The smoke is inhaled through a pipe and passes through a vase filled with water. The water cools the smoke and makes it very sweet. The hookah is primarily a source of pleasure and encourages human contact. Some hookahs are works of art and sometimes have a decorative function.
Doubtful Origins
Many synonyms and spellings exist to describe the same object in different countries. It can be called either: narjila in Turkey, shisha in Egypt, Houka in India, Chilam in Afghanistan. If we look at the origin of the word "narguilé" we can distinguish Persian origins "naghilé" has the same root as the Persian word "Nārgil" of the Sanskrit "nãrikera" which means coconut. This name would then refer to the general form of container which can contain water and that were often simple fruit. The synonym "shisha" also has Persian roots. It comes from the word "shishe" which means "bottle". Even more than the origin of the word, the very origin of the hookah is still unknown. It has been credited multiple sources and it is probable that it was actually developed independently in various parts of the globe. Thus there are sources in Europe, America, India, Persia and Africa.

One possibility would be the European origin: the hookah would be in this hypothesis the descendant of the tobacco pipe. It could also be used in Asia and the Middle East for the consumption of drugs such as hashish or opium (including China). The possibility of a South African or Ethiopian origin for this form of water pipe has been considered by specialists as Alfred Dunhill and John Edward Philips. Recently, an interesting archaeological discovery in an Ethiopian cave re-launched the mystery of the hookah’s origins. Indeed, pipe wrapping, which go back to the 14th century, have been discovered. Already in 1971 hookah bowls were excavated in the cave of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Their timing suggests a use in the 1320s. Anyway, the experts seem to agree that the emergence of large-scale use of hookah in oriental societies is simultaneous with the appearance of public cafes and the arrival of tobacco in the Middle East.

The Portuguese actually introduced tobacco into Iran in the early 16th century. It was during the Salavides dynasty that its use expanded greatly in the country, so much so that the entire Persian society was using it at the end of Shah Abbas the 1st reign. It then spread through the Ottoman Empire in the East.

When hookah and society go hand in hand
The hookah is smoked calmly, time seems suspended and we engage in a real "let go". It could be smoked alone, with music and a book or in a dreamy meditation. But in most cases it is savored in groups, ignoring social differences to give priority only to communication.

The hookahs generally have only a single pipe that is passed on from one smoker to another, thus promoting the exchange. The hazy atmosphere due to the smoke and the sound of the bubbles contribute to the gracious ambiance that encourages conversation.

The Hookah becomes the occasion for reflection, perhaps even awareness. In Lebanon, men and women of all social classes continue to smoke the hookah. During the long years of war, families and neighbors transported their hookahs with them to their underground hide-outs. It was their companion during the hard times. Today, cafes and restaurants serving hookahs are everywhere and have become places ruled by conviviality and socialization. The hookah is so popular that it is possible to have it delivered at home, at any time of day and night, along with a pizza...
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