Sorry to disappoint but a hookah does not stand on street corners soliciting people, though it does cause a hypnotic state of relaxation.
In Turkey it is known as a nargile or a hubble-bubble. It is also known as a waterpipe, shisha, sheesha, goza, arhile, borry or hookah. It is a vessel, usually made of glass, with either single or multiple stems that is used for smoking flavored tobacco vapor, tobacco smoke that is drawn through a pipe of water and cooled before being inhaled and exhaled through a hose.
Though the hookah is mostly affiliated with Middle Eastern cultures, its origin dates back centuries to India and Pakistan. Its popularity spread through Afghanistan, Northern Africa and parts of Asia. In Turkey, smoking a hookah became fashionable and a status symbol that both men and women enjoyed. Special places to smoke were established, hookah bars. The trend moved on to Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and eventually made its way to the United States as these cultures immigrated.
The vessel itself resembles and ornate vase. Its operation is quite simple.
Tobacco, a special sticky type with molasses or honey added, is placed in a bowl, covered with perforated foil and topped with a hot coal. The tobacco is heated. A removable tray located under the bowl catches any loose ashes. A hose transports the flavored smoke through the glass base filled with water. This filters the tobacco into a vapor. A customized smoking hose is connected to the shaft. The amount of vapor desired is released through a valve. A mouthpiece is attached to the smoking hose and what one uses to inhale the flavored vapor. Each person partaking should use his/her own mouthpiece for sanitation reasons.
There are some “rules” when smoking a hookah. A hookah should remain on the floor as placing it on another surface may cause it to tip. Only flavored tobacco should be used and it should always be filtered through the water bowl before being inhaled. Smoke should never be blown in another’s face. After use, the smoking hose should be wrapped around the shaft.
A number of web sites market hookahs for home use. Most Middle Eastern bars offer the use of hookahs for a fee. Some anti-smoking laws have banned hookahs from public use.
There is debate, however, on whether inhaling the filtered and flavored tobacco from a hookah actually constitutes smoking.
The hookah is an integral part of Middle Eastern culture. Many establishments that offer hookah also promote belly dancing and belly dancers as part of the overall entertainment.
Both are cultural entertainments bringing the Middle East to the United States.