Hookah History

Updated: Mar 8, 2020

Hookah, Shisha, Ghelian…

Those are just some of the names for smoking waterpipe.

Hookah comes from the word Hoqqeh which is a clay pipe head that is used to smoke various types of tobacco and even opium.

Shisha is derived from the Persian word shisheh which means glass or jar.

Ghelian come from the family name of old Persian physician named Abu’l-Fath Gilani, who was the personal physician to Akbar the Great.

Gilani was born in Gilan & Gilan is the name of an Iranian province on the coast of the Caspian Sea.

The country of Iran, as you might know, was also called Persia.

Tobacco was first used in present day Iran at around 1600, but some believe that it was known and used even before its introduction to Europe at around 1550’s. and the reason is that the said waterpipe is mentioned in some of the poems by Ahli Shirazi who lived between 1454 and 1535.

Soon, pipe and waterpipe became inseparable items in every Persian’s life.

Smoking was done at home, in coffeehouses and in other public places. Aristocrats, when they were out, had a special servant referred to as ghelian dar, who carried all smoking devices in special leather boxes.

There were also “waterpipe sellers”, who offered a smoke to those without a pipe. In order to satisfy their smoking habit, rich people spent large amounts of money on their pipes and had them made of wrought gold and silver, often studded with jewels, especially turquoise

. The most widely used wood was, the agariot or the wild cherry tree called Beroline (Cerasis orientalis). This tree grew in particular in Fars, Kohkiluyeh, Lorestan and the Bakhtiari mountains.

The water-reservoir was generally known as shisheh or glass, and was either plain crystal, or cut Bohemian. When the waterpipe was made of glass, the

Persians, depending on the season, often put cherries, roseleaves, or jasmine into it, which danced about in the hubble-bubble

. In summer, a porous clay bottle “kuzeh” was generally used as cooler by all classes.

Ordinary people used an earthenware bowl throughout the year. Painted porcelain bowls were also used. The water-reservoirs were embellished with enameled or painted figures or faces by the late 17th century.



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