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Hookah Meaning & Definition

Hookah smoking has been around for hundreds of years as one of the defining cultural traditions of the Middle East and India. 

In recent years, there has been a significant push to spread hookah smoking throughout Western Europe and the United States, a push that has had brilliant success.

But with the popularity of hookah in regions where it is not traditional, there have been a lot of questions about hookah and its origins, and what it means to smoke hookah.

If you have looked elsewhere online, you may find that getting this material in one, easy-to-read, and concise article is difficult. Well, not anymore. We here at MOB Hookah have compiled our own research to get you all the info you need on what hookah means, its origins, and traditions.

What Is Hookah?

Hookah is a method of smoking tobacco that has been around since the 1600s. A hookah is a type of water pipe, meaning that it uses water as part of the filtration process for the smoke. Hookah pipes are also known as “argileh”, in some places of the world.

A hookah pipe is a relatively large smoking apparatus with a few key pieces. We are going to break it down piece by piece starting from the top down. 

At the top of your hookah is the bowl. This is the piece that holds your tobacco for smoking. You wrap the bowl in tin foil poked with holes which you place coals on top of to light the tobacco.

Then you have the stem, which is the piece of the pipe that looks like a tube and connects the bowl to the vase or base of the hookah. The stem is typically made of some type of metal and is the path the smoke follows from the base. 

The stem connects to the downstem and vase. The vase is the (typically glass) basin at the bottom of your hookah that holds the water. Your downstem comes out of the stem and dips into the water, about one inch. The smoke comes out of your downstem and into the water, where it is filtered, and bubbles up into the portion of the vase without water in it. 

The base will also have a hose port, where your hose connects into the hookah. The hose is the portion of the hookah you place your mouth on and inhale from to both pull smoke and inhale smoke into your lungs. 

There are a few more pieces to a hookah, but this gives you the basic information you need to understand what a hookah is.

How Did Hookah Originate?

Now that we know a bit of what a hookah is, you should know a little bit of the history of hookah. 

There are three different origin stories of the hookah, all of which probably have a little bit of truth to them. We may never know the true origin of the hookah pipe, but we have a few good ideas of how it grew in popularity.

The dominant story states that the hookah originated in India, during the early 1600s. During this time, trade with India was booming, and one of the many things that came to India for the first time was tobacco. Slowly, tobacco spread from the coastal trading cities inland, where it eventually became popular among the wealthy and elite of the Mughal empire. Eventually, the emperor himself was given tobacco as a gift.

The chief physician to the emperor at the time was concerned about the negative health effects that smoking tobacco might cause. So the head physician, Abu’l-Faith Gilani, presented the emperor with a hookah, believing the water would filter out some of the toxins and carcinogens in the smoke. The hookah then grew in popularity amongst the aristocracy and elite, and continued its spread from there.

Whether Abu’l-Faith Gilani invented the hookah himself, or introduced the hookah to the emperor from his homeland, Iran, is unknown. There is evidence that hookah and other water pipes existed in Persia around this time, and it is reasonable to believe Abu’l-Faith Gilani may have been familiar with them when introducing hookah to the emperor of the Mughal empire.

What Do You Smoke From a Hookah?

The simplest answer here is that you smoke tobacco out of your hookah, but there’s a little more to it. Yes, tobacco is smoked from a hookah, but there is a special type of tobacco that can only be smoked from a hookah, and no other method. 

This type of tobacco is called shisha, and it is a mixture of chopped tobacco leaf, honey or molasses, glycerin, and flavoring. This together creates a sticky, wet, tobacco mixture that produces a thick smoke full of flavors like fruit, mint, and other flavors. 

You can also smoke regular tobacco out of a hookah. Another common substance used in hookahs is cannabis. You can smoke cannabis alone, or mix it with shisha, which is most popular. This way you get a mix of nicotine, THC, and flavor in your smoke.

How Can I Smoke Hookah as a Beginner?

Great question. Many people wonder how they can try hookah, given the fact that it is a big commitment to purchase a hookah pipe and setup for yourself before you have ever even tried it.

Having a friend with a hookah setup at home is one way you could try hookah. If you know someone who is a hookah enthusiast, they would probably be more than happy to show you the ropes and invite you to their next session. 

But perhaps an even better way to try smoking hookah is by visiting a local hookah lounge. Hookah lounges are a part of the traditions of hookah, particularly in Egypt where hookah cafes are incredibly popular. Going to a hookah lounge will allow you to try hookah on a high-quality pipe, with experts there to help you make decisions and learn the ropes.

Hookah lounges can also be a great way to try new shisha flavors without having to buy a whole tub for yourself only to find out that you don’t love it. 

Here at MOB Hookah, we sell to lots of hookah lounges, providing high-quality pipes and shisha to hookah lounges in San Diego and across the United States. Hookah lounges are one of the best ways you have available to you to give hookah smoking a try. You may just love it. 

Hookah Meaning and Definition: The Takeaways

Hookah is the name for the water pipes that originated and became famous in the Middle East, India, and later, the world at large.

Shisha is the name for the flavored tobacco mixture that is smoked through a hookah, containing chopped tobacco leaf, molasses or honey, glycerin, and flavoring.

You can also smoke dry ground tobacco from a hookah, or cannabis if you wish.

If you are looking to find a way to try hookah out without having to buy your own home setup, you can try visiting a local hookah lounge and give it a shot there. Lounges are full of experts who will be happy to help you learn the ropes and find the shisha that you like the best.

And if you decide you are ready to make the leap into the hookah world, MOB Hookah offers the best deals on amazing equipment, from pipes to bowls, vases, hoses, accessories, shisha, and everything else you might imagine.

And don’t forget to keep checking back here for more great content like this to help you become an expert on everything hookah. 


The History and Meaning of Hookah | Rakija Lounge

Etymology, origin and meaning of hookah | etymonline.com

Marijuana: Facts about Cannabis | Live Science

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