A hookah also known as a waterpipe or narghile, is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based) instrument for smoking in which the smoke is cooled by water. The tobacco smoked is referred to as shisha (sheesha) in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. According to Cyril Elgood (pp. 41, 110), who does not mention his source, it was Abu’l-Fatḥ Gīlānī (d. 1588), a Persian physician at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar I, who “first passed the smoke of tobacco through a small bowl of water to purify and cool the smoke and thus invented the hubble-bubble or hookah.” However, a quatrain of Ahlī Šīrāzī (d. 1535) refers to the use of the ḡalyān (Falsafī, II, p. 277; Semsār, 1963, p. 15), thus dating its use at least as early as the time of Ṭahmāsp I (1524–76). It seems, therefore, that Abu’l-Fatḥ Gīlānī should be credited with the introduction of the ḡalyān, already in use in Persia, to India. Smoking the hookah has gained popularity, especially in the Middle East and is gaining popularity in North America, South America, Europe and Australia.
Depending on locality, hookahs or shishas may be referred to by many names: Arabic language uses it as Shisha or Nargeela or Argeela and they use it throughout the whole of the Arab World; Nargile (but sometimes pronounced Argileh or Argilee) is the name most commonly used in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Nargileh derives from the Persian word nārghile, meaning coconut, which in turn is from the Sanskrit word nārikela, suggesting that early hookahs were hewn from coconut shells.
In Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina the hookah is called "Lula" or "Lulava" in Romani, meaning "pipe," the word "shishe" refers to the actual bottle piece.
In Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, na[r]gile (на[р]гиле; from Turkish nargile) is used to refer to the pipe. Šiša (шиша) usually refers to the tobacco that is smoked in it. The pipes there often have one or two mouth pieces, and are usually shared between two people. The flavored tobacco is placed above the water and covered by pierced foil with hot coals placed on top, the smoke is drawn through cold water to cool and filter it. This, "narguile", is also the common word in Spain, where hookah is also referred to as "cachimba", though Moroccan immigrants in Spain use the word "shisha".
Shisha, from the Persian word shīshe, meaning glass, is the common term for the hookah in Egypt, Sudan and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf (including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia), and in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Somalia and Yemen.
In Iran, hookah is called "ḡalyān". The name of the implement for smoking, ḡalyān, was apparently derived from the Ar. √ḡlā which is believed, it was the first name of Hookah too. This is also the name used in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, where hookah bars enjoy a great deal of popularity.
In Uzbekistan, hookah is called "Chillim". In India and Pakistan the name most similar to the English hookah is used: huqqa .
In Maldives, hookah is called "Gudugudaa".
The commonness of the Indian word "hookah" in English 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. William Hickey, shortly after arriving in Kolkata, India, in 1775, wrote in his Memoirs:
The most highly-dressed and splendid hookah was prepared for me. I tried it, but did not like it. As after several trials I still found it disagreeable, I with much gravity requested to know whether it was indispensably necessary that I should become a smoker, which was answered with equal gravity, "Undoubtedly it is, for you might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion. Here everybody uses a hookah, and it is impossible to get on without" [... I] have frequently heard men declare they would much rather be deprived of their dinner than their hookah.
The origin of Hookah smoking can be dated back to hundreds of years ago, and its initial traces have been found in the North Western provinces of India in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. According to Cyril Elgood (PP.41, 110) who does not mention his source, it was in India where Hakim Abu’l-Fatḥ Gīlānī (d. 1588), an Iranian physician at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar I (1542 - 1605 AD) invented the idea. Following the European introduction of tobacco to India, Hakim Abul Fateh Gilani a descendant of Abdul-Qadir Gilani came from Gilan, a province in the north of Iran, to India. He later became a physician in the court of Mughal and raised 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 to take up smoking. Following popularity among noblemen, this new device for smoking soon became a status symbol for the Indian aristocracy and gentry.
In North India, it is a great tradition followed among Gurjars, Jats, Bishnois, Rajputs etc. However, a quatrain of Ahlī Šīrāzī (d. 1535), a Persian poem, refers to the use of the ḡalyān (Falsafī, II, p. 277; Semsār, 1963, p. 15), thus dating its use at least as early as the time of Shah Ṭahmāsp I. It seems, therefore, that Abu’l-Fatḥ Gīlānī should be credited with the introduction of the ḡalyān, already in use in Persia, to India. The hookah pipe is also known as the Marra pipe in the UK, especially in the North East, where it is used for recreational purposes.
Bowl also known as the head of the hookah, the bowl is a container, usually made out of clay or marble, that holds the coal and tobacco during the smoking session. The bowl is loaded with tobacco then covered in a small piece of perforated aluminum foil or a glass or metal screen. Lit coals are then placed on top, which allows the tobacco to heat to the proper temperature.
There is also a variation of the head which employs a fruit rather than the traditional clay bowl. The fruit is hollowed out and perforated in order to achieve the same shape and system a clay bowl has, then it is loaded and used in the same manner.
Bowls have evolved in recent years to incorporate new designs that keep juices in the tobacco from running down the stem. The Tangiers Phunnel Bowl and Sahara Smoke Vortex Bowl are two examples of such bowls.
The jar at the bottom of the hookah is filled with water sufficient to submerge a few centimeters of the body tube, which is sealed tightly to it. Deeper water will only increase the inhalation force needed to use it. Tobacco is placed inside the bowl at the top of the hookah and then a foil or charcoal screen with a burning charcoal is placed on top. Some cultures cover the bowl with perforated tin foil or a metal screen to separate the coal and the tobacco, which minimizes inhalation of coal ash with the smoke. This may also reduce the temperature the tobacco is exposed to, in order to prevent burning the tobacco directly.
When one inhales through the hose, air is pulled through the charcoal and into the bowl holding the tobacco. The hot air, heated by the charcoal vaporizes (not burns) the tobacco, thus producing smoke, which is passed down through the body tube that extends into the water in the jar. It bubbles up through the water, losing heat, and fills the top part of the jar, to which the hose is attached. When a smoker inhales from the hose, smoke passes into the lungs, and the change in pressure in the jar pulls more air through the charcoal, continuing the process.
If the hookah has been lit and smoked but has not been inhaled for an extended period, the smoke inside the water jar may be regarded as "stale" and undesirable. Stale smoke may be exhausted through the purge valve, if present. This one-way valve is opened by the positive pressure created from gently blowing into the hose. It will not function on a multiple-hose hookah unless all other hoses are plugged. Sometimes one-way valves are put in the hose sockets to avoid the need to manually plug hoses.
The consensus among medical professionals is that no method of smoking tobacco is safe, and that smoking Hookah is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes
Each hookah session typically lasts more than 40 minutes, and consists of 50 to 200 inhalations that each range from 0.15 to 0.50 liters of smoke. In an hour-long smoking session of hookah, users consume about 100 to 200 times the smoke of a single cigarette; in a 45-minute smoking session a typical smoker would inhale 1.7 times the nicotine of a single cigarette. The water used to filter the smoke does not remove harmful cancer-causing chemicals from the smoke as is believed by some.
A study on hookah smoking and cancer in Pakistan was published in 2008. Its objective was "to find serum CEA levels in ever/exclusive hookah smokers, i.e. those who smoked only hookah (no cigarettes, bidis, etc.)."The study showed no statistically significant difference between CEA levels in a hookah smoker and a non-smoker, while levels of cigarette smokers were comparatively raised. The study also concluded that heavy hookah smoking (2–4 daily preparations; 3–8 sessions a day; 2 to 6 hours net daily smoking time) substantially raises CEA levels.