Hookah, Shisha & Narghile

Ever since smoking tobacco through a water pipe was introduced to civilization during the late 1500's many countries and cultures have adopted the practice and in turn added their own names, nicknames and traditions to the hookah story. Depending on where in the world you are flavored tobacco smoking may be known as hookah, shisha, narghile (pronounced 'arghila') and even lulu so if you're an international traveler with a taste for flavored tobacco it helps to know the quirky names and local customs for what many know as hookah smoking.

The history of hookah smoking runs deep throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa so most of the lingo and terms used to describe the pipe, tobacco and practice originate in Arabic, Persian and even Sanskrit languages. Shisha, Nargeela and Argeela are all derived from the Arabic language and the practice of calling hookah smoking shisha or narghile is common in these lands. Close but not entirely similar is the Turkish use of the word Narghile that is pronounced 'Argilah' and can be overheard in Turkey, Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria and Azerbaijan when referring to flavored tobacco smoking.

The term 'shisha' is long thought to have been invented by the Persians since the word 'shishe', meaning glass, is the common name for smoking hookah through a water pipe. This custom spread across many Arabic countries during Persian conquests including the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Oman and Saudi Arabia as well as the Northern African countries of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

Again, depending on which country you are in shisha may refer to the flavored tobacco itself or the water pipe that is used when smoking. The same holds true for the word 'hookah' that has several meanings, all involving the practice of smoking flavored tobacco through a pipe. However, in the Baltic countries of Southern Europe including Albania, Bosnia and Croatia the word 'lulu' refers to the hookah while 'shishe' refers to the actual glass bottle piece.

Still, interpretation of the word 'hookah' has been loosely translated in several cultures and countries including Iran ('Ghalyoon'), Uzbekistan ('Chillim') and Pakistan ('huqqa'). The Indian word 'hookah' was quickly adopted by the colonial supervisors from the British Empire and the term spread to many English colonies including South Africa, the American colonies and several regions of South East Asia including the Philippines.

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