The History of Hookah

Man Smoking Hookah

Hookah or shisha is flavored tobacco that is sampled through a water pipe, generally in a social setting. Hookah has been used throughout history by various cultures, predominantly Persian, Indian, Turkish, North African and Middle Eastern. Smoking hookah is a social activity, which is often used for entertainment. Families, relatives and friends can come together to relax while smoking the strongly flavored tobacco. But the origins of hookah begin as a symbol of status. Learn how hookah traversed countries and cultures and finally made its way to South Tampa.

Hookah consumption begins to proliferate in India, Persia, and Turkey.  

Hookah dates back to the 16th century in India. At this time, the British East India Company exported glass through the country, and this started Indian glass manufacturing. Tobacco at the time was popularly used by those in high society and was a symbol of status. In an attempt to purify the tobacco, the noblemen began smoking it through a glass base which became known as a ‘Shisha’.

By the 17th century, smoking hookah had become popular in Persia, where they smoked darker tobacco leaves known as Ajami, which had a much stronger taste. This is when hookah’s popularity spread to the working classes as well as the elite.

Hookah became popular in Turkey during the 18th century, where hookah pipes became more ornate and intricate. Designs included brass and religious markings. Often the pipe was smoked in the palace at royal dinners and at meetings between powerful people. Offering to share hookah with guests at this time was a sign of both trust and respect.

North Africa and the Middle East create unique varieties of flavored tobacco. 

The 19th century saw the hookah growing in popularity in the Middle East and North Africa. Both regions saw smoking hookah as a social occasion, popular in all parts of society. The practice became so engrained in the culture that special cafes were opened where the pipe could be smoked – this is one of the first examples of the Shisha bars that we know today. In Egypt, traditional tobacco that was once smoked was replaced with a tobacco substance known as Mu-Assel, which contained tobacco blended with honey or molasses to create a sweeter, more palatable flavor. Different varieties emerged, combining this sweet tobacco with ingredients such as mint, grape or watermelon. This is where we really began to see shisha as we know it today.

Early in the 21st century, hookah makes it's way to the North America. 

The traditions developed as the hookah strengthened throughout the 20th century in all the countries where it was already an established practice. With the increase in both trade and travel, it’s influence spread to other countries such as Armenia, Israel and Pakistan, before moving further afield as many immigrants traveled from the East to the West. The practice first reached North America in the early part of the 21st century, when it was introduced by early pioneers. More and more, users were experimenting with different tobacco flavors.

Across various countries and cultures, hookah is rooted in relationships and friendship.

Nowadays, hookah is prevalent in many countries across the globe, and while the practices may look slightly different depending on your location, they are all still closely linked to the traditions passed on from the 16th century. The key principle of hookah is simply – developing relationships with others, bringing people together and attempting to remove differences. Come by our location in South Tampa and explore the various flavors of hookah and see how hookah ahs been transformed over centuries of development.  

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