Hookah in Turkey

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Tobacco and variants were already used by people even before many essential tools were discovered. While tobacco leaves were burned for worship purposes at first, people later started to enjoy the pleasure of smoking. Smoking systems took many shapes in many civilizations like pipes, cigars, cigarettes… However, hookah was the most complicated one. Let’s have a look at the subject of Hookah in Turkey.

Hookah in Turkey
Hookah in Turkey

I personally do not smoke hookah or something similar regularly, and I do not want to encourage anyone reading this article into smoking. I wrote this article with purpose of giving a historic perspective on hookah and place of hookah in the Turkish culture.

Hookah means coconut in Persian. The first use of hookah was seen in India, and then the Iranians first used it, and then it became widespread among the Arabs. The Ottomans met tobacco in the 16th century. And since then, the use of hookah has continued.

A Classic Hookah with Wooden Body

Maybe hookah is the most common way of calling this style of smoking, but it has many names in the different parts of the world, such as; Arjilah, Nargilah, Sisha, Nargil, Cachimba and Shisha. We mostly call Nargilah instead of hookah in Turkey, but I will refer to it as Hookah since it is the most commonly and internationally used name.

The hookah went through many stages until it became what it is today. The Indians started the first types of hookah smoking by burning the dried tobacco outside the coconut with a straw they inserted into the walnut. The hookah, which was pioneered by the Indians with coconuts became gourd over time, and gradually to porcelain and bronze bodies. Today, it even sometimes has ceramic tiles, silver and glass body.

Hookah with fruit flavors

Hookah, which used to be smoked only with tumbak tobacco*, became very popular and widespread in our country with its flavored varieties, which were later smoked in Egypt. Hookah has not only been the culture of the easterners, but has also been used in Europe for a long time. In fact, in France, George Sand made Balzac a hookah addict, as well as smoking himself.

Hookah basically consists of four parts. Mouthpiece (sipsi), lule (the part where tobacco and fire are put), lance (pipe) and body (the part where water or milk is put). One of the other materials that add beauty to the pleasure of smoking hookah is glass hookah bottles.

Hookah and its special coal cubes

Preparing the hookah also requires some knowledge and talent. These are in summary; The water should be changed after each use, the nozzle should be washed and cleaned after each use, the mouthpiece which is called sipsi should be in hygienic packages, the lances must be cleaned periodically, and the unused tobacco is kept in closed boxes. In addition, it is important that hookahs with flavored tobacco are used only in that flavored hookah sets. For example, mint flavored tobacco cannot be smoked with an orange flavored tobacco.

Although sayings such as “a hookah is worth 50 cigarettes” are used among the people, there are also aspects that distinguish hookah from cigarettes, namely positive aspects compared to cigarettes. Since tobacco comes through the water, it gets rid of some tar and poison which of those you normally inhale during smoking a cigarette. In addition, the smoke coming through a long hose (lance) leaves some harmful substances there. Since hookah cannot be easily obtained and smoked like cigarettes, it is only used at certain times. We can’t smoke hookah while walking. Therefore, if we compare it with others, we can say that hookah is the best of the worst.

Some hookah cafés offer a food and drinks too

Undoubtedly, the most important element for hookah is tobacco. Tobacco is chopped, covered with a damp towel overnight. The quality of the hookah is related to the waiting time here. Hookah tobacco can be mixed with fragrant fruits such as apple, mint, apricot, strawberry, banana, lemon, pineapple. To enjoy hookah, it should be smoked slowly. Although hookah smoking undoubtedly varies for everyone, the common point is that it is enjoyed by smoking heavily.

In the past, hookah tobacco was much harsher. It was made from leaf tobacco called tumbak. The damage it caused to people’s lungs was worse than today. We can say that the wide variety of fruit-flavored tobaccos which are popular nowadays are a little more optimistic compared to the previous types of tobacco. In addition, we can learn about this with a very simple test. If you inhale the cigarette and blow the smoke on a paper napkin, and if you inhale the hookah and blow on a paper napkin, you will clearly see the difference. But please never forget that ”It is best not to smoke at all”. 👍

Everyone enjoys hookah in Turkey

Smoking hookah is not like smoking a cigarette, but like a pipe smoking. As you breathe in the air, the water in the bottle should bubble and therefore the tobacco should burn. Hookah is generally drawn into the stomach using the diaphragm and blown by stretching the diaphragm too. The difference between hookah and cigarette is that the tobacco smoke cools in the water. In this way, harmful substances in tobacco are also captured by the water. A culture of conversation has been formed around hookah.

The most important feature of hookah is that it is smoked in a place of its own. This brought respect and enjoyment of hookah culture among the hookah smokers society. Hookah and conversation have become joys which progresses together. Going to hookah cafeterias is especially preferred by middle-aged people. Instead of smoking hookah alone, having a nice conversation and enjoying hookah is much more enjoyable.

A Hookah café in Istanbul on the beginning of the 20th century

Today, modern hookahs are spreading rapidly. These hookahs are much preferred over traditional hookahs. The design of these hookahs is slightly different from the older and traditional hookahs. Modern hookahs, which generally have a more successful design and are enriched with certain accessories, have many models such as portable hookahs, LED light hookahs, bag hookahs, matte hookahs. Classic hookahs in the past were larger and generally used in a stable environment, and it was very difficult to carry on trips, even almost impossible. However, nowadays, with the production of hookahs with bags, it has become possible to take up less space and be carried in a small bag by being easily disassembled and mounted.

* Tumbak tobacco is wide and tick leafed Persian tobacco which is suitable to be burned on the hookah.

Hookah Culture in Turkey

Get Your Tour Guide in Turkey

I will be happy to tell you more about Hookah in Turkey and also show you the best places to have it. Finding the right spot to have Hookah experience is important since it is a cultural value which is highly popular right now and many people prepare hookah not for pleasure, simply for the profit. Contact me to hire a Turkish tour guide in Turkey and learn more about Turkey from a licensed Turkish tour guide. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.

Best Places to Try Hookah in Turkey

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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