What is a Hookah?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
An ornate, blue hookah.
An ornate, blue hookah.

A hookah is a single- or multi-stemmed water pipe originating in India around the turn of the 17th century. It became extremely popular throughout the Middle East, where it is more often called shisha or narghile. Today, smoking with one of these devices is also popular in Europe, North America, and South Africa, particularly at Middle Eastern themed hookah bars.

Using a hookah to smoke sweetened tobacco is more popular with women than men.
Using a hookah to smoke sweetened tobacco is more popular with women than men.

The hookah was invented by physician Hakin Abul Fath in an attempt to lessen the ill effects of smoking tobacco. It consists of a water jar, often made of glass, connected by a tube or body to the bowl at the top. Tobacco is placed in the bowl and covered with burning charcoal. Smoke is drawn through a hose leading from the water jar. The hot air is drawn down through the tobacco, and the resultant smoke is filtered through the water before the smoker inhales it.

Originating in India around the turn of the 17th century, hookahs have become extremely popular throughout the Middle East, where it is more often called shisha or narghile.
Originating in India around the turn of the 17th century, hookahs have become extremely popular throughout the Middle East, where it is more often called shisha or narghile.

The tobacco typically smoked in a hookah differs from that smoked in a traditional pipe. It is often sweetened with honey, molasses, fruit, and/or aromatic oils. There is a great variety of flavors, including blended flavors. They also come in different strengths of tobacco. Some blends are tobacco-free.

Though the pipe originated in India, hookah smoking was not always widespread in the country, being limited to rural areas until very recently. Rather, it has become a tradition of countries in the Arab world and surrounding countries. In the past ten years or so, hookah bars have become trendy among the youth of countries around the world.

Though the hookah was intended to be healthier than other ways of smoking tobacco, research suggests that it is not significantly safer. It is typically smoked for 20 to 80 minutes, and one study found that a 45-minute session delivers about 5 to 10% more carbon dioxide and tar than a pack of cigarettes. The effects of hookah smoking and how it compares to other methods of tobacco consumption are not well known, however, and more studies are necessary before conclusive claims can be made.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon932874

E-Hookah is definitely worth the money. I ordered mint and bubblegum and both exceeded my expectations. They were very flavorful.

anon181117

I went to a hookah bar last night. The atmosphere was really nice, relaxing. It was a fun experience. I would do it once in a while just to break the monotony of the usual clubbing. Tasted great and had a good time.

anon174345

Alfresco hookah lounges are very popular in Istanbul, Turkey. I saw them everywhere when I was there last October. Some even had a line to get in.

anon124230

It does not have the effects of a drug but it has the social environment and atmosphere that people can get together and lounge.

anon105185

would someone please explain what we are smoking exactly and what the effects are? is it like smoking weed or just tobacco? or something else?

foster

A lot of tobacco stores sell hookahs, and I'm sure you can find one online as well. I don't know if people sell used ones, but a new one would probably taste better.

yournamehere

Where can I buy a hookah?

Do the hookah lounges sell used ones, or do I need to just look around for one online?

closerfan12

I've smoked a hookah, but it was never quite my thing.

Maybe I just got a bad hookah pipe, but I got a bad headache.

I'd try it again, I suppose, but I didn't really see what all the fuss was about.

musicshaman

Hookah smoking is really popular nowadays with college kids.

A lot of areas around colleges have hookah lounges, a lot of which even have restaurants attached.

It's pretty cheap, and can be a lot of fun. Of course I wouldn't recommend it all the time because of the health concerns, but I think it can be a great way to relax every once in a while.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • An ornate, blue hookah.
      An ornate, blue hookah.
    • Using a hookah to smoke sweetened tobacco is more popular with women than men.
      Using a hookah to smoke sweetened tobacco is more popular with women than men.
    • Originating in India around the turn of the 17th century, hookahs have become extremely popular throughout the Middle East, where it is more often called shisha or narghile.
      Originating in India around the turn of the 17th century, hookahs have become extremely popular throughout the Middle East, where it is more often called shisha or narghile.