Ever wondered what the Caterpillar from the animated film “Alice in Wonderland” smokes? Although the first thing that might cross your mind is a bong, it’s not entirely accurate. In the novel, Lewis Carroll specifically identified the creature as the “Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar”. But what exactly is a hookah and where did it come from?
Leif Harum, who identifies himself as “The Runaway Guide” in his blog, shares what he found out about the history of hookah smoking:
The Hookah is believed to have developed in northwestern India around 1000 years ago. It was initially believed to have been constructed from wood and coconuts. And its primary purpose at the time was as a medium for smoking opium and hashish.
However, as it moved westward into Persia, its design was refined and the smoking of a dark tobacco known as “Tombeik” was adopted. Today, from downtown Delhi, to the corner cafes of Cairo, the Hookah is a salient centerpiece throughout the Middle East.
However, due to the evolution of the hookah as it traversed the Middle East, the Hookah now assumes many different names depending on one’s locality. In Turkey, for example, it is known as “Narghile,” and in Jordan it goes by “Arghile.” Both of which are incarnations of the Sanskrit word for coconut. Finally in Egypt it is called “Shisha.”
Hookah or shisha smoking has been around for a millennium now, and it is still popular around the world, especially in European countries like Spain. It might have changed names as it moved westward from India, but hookah-loving people smoke it to experience the same thing: the pleasure of inhaling fragrant fumes straight from the shisha.
Shisha smoking appealed to a lot of people because, unlike cigarette or tobacco smoking, it is traditionally smoked with others in a room, a gratifying form of social activity. Three to four people can smoke in a single shisha pipe. Smoking shisha is also quite popular in Spain where people spend hours relaxing and enjoying shisha smoking in a Barcelona shisha bar, such as Ziryab.
You don’t have to go all the way to the Middle East to get a taste of shisha smoking. If you happen to be in Spain, then smoking shisha in Barcelona should definitely be on your to-do list, especially after you’ve done a lot of walking around. Sharing a shisha pipe with your new friends can be a satisfying way to unwind after a full tiring day of exploring.
(Source: The Hookah High: Everything You Need To Know, The Runaway Guide)