History of the shisha – mysteries, puzzles and ancient legends

Modern life is becoming more and more dynamic. In other words, it practically leaves us with no free time. And shisha is just the surest cure for the hustle and bustle. However, in a constant rush it is still very critical to take some time for ourselves. No matter how we spend this time – sports, hobbies or anything else. It always gives a chunk of good mood and energy that is so necessary for each of us.

Shisha is the best leisure

But most of all we love meeting friends – outdoors, in a restaurant or just at home. In fact, no matter where. The most important thing is that meeting friends is always a special event. Moreover, you really want to spend it with pleasure and in an awesome place. And that is why, when choosing a meeting place, we usually hear from friends – “let’s go to that place – there’s a cool shisha”, or “let’s go to the shisha bar”.

Some of our friends even playfully blackmail us saying that they would go out to meet only to a place that has a shisha. Shisha is becoming an almost indispensable attribute of a good evening. We always have something to talk about with friends. Also we can entertain them by brightening the evening with stories about the history of the shisha. Especially if there are some friends around who are still cautious about this type of smoking.

Is India the birthplace of an ancient tradition or …?

The history of the shisha goes so far into the past that there is basically no single version. Or one hundred percent reliable facts about who and when invented the shisha. There are many versions, theories, conjectures and puzzles. Certainly, they bring even more mystery to the shisha itself and the smoking process. Nevertheless all theories agree on one thing. This particular smoking device came to us from the East.

Many historians believe India is the birthplace of the shisha. The culture and religion of India are so special and so unique that there is practically no doubt that such an interesting device came to us from this mysterious country. Since ancient times, Hindus were using devices similar to the modern shisha for meditation or for treatment of various diseases – different types of tobacco were used for different purposes.

In each country, the shisha has its own unique name. For example, in Arab countries, the shisha can be called argilah. There are also other variations of the names – chillim, waterpipe and hubble bubble. Many of these words and their variations become the names of shisha bars.

Shisha in literature

One of the earliest and therefore most reliable facts about the origin of the shisha is the book of William Hickey. A lawyer from England, who became famous thanks to his book Memoirs. In his book, Hickey paid special attention to the description of the life, customs and culture of India of the 18th century, which attracted really great attention of the British to this book at that time.

Here is a short excerpt from Memoirs. It gives us an understanding of how deeply shisha smoking was woven into India’s culture at that distant time. It would be even more interesting if in his book Hickey paid special attention to the smoking shisha custom. We are sure that he would definitely investigate this issue in more details. If he could imagine how widely this habit would spread across the planet.

“The most highly-dressed and splendid shisha was prepared for me. I tried it, but did not like it. I with much gravity requested to know whether it was indispensably necessary that I should become a smoker, which was answered with equal gravity, “Undoubtedly it is, for you might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion. Here everybody uses a shisha, and it is impossible to get on without. …[I] have frequently heard men declare they would much rather be deprived of their dinner than their shisha”.

Of course, we are surprised to read that the British lawyer Hickey did not like the shish. But we consider it a matter of taste. We came to an agreement that tobacco blends at that time were not so diverse. There were not such an abundance of tastes that are available now.

What was shisha made of?

The first shishas in India were very primitive – basically, they were made with coconut shells, which were connected to a bamboo pipe. Despite the primitiveness, in some villages of India you can still find coconut-bamboo shishas that are still actively used.

A little later, bowls for shishas were made of clay, and hoses were made of snake skin. By the way there is an interesting fact about clay shishas – the remains of smoking devices made of clay that looked like shishas were found during archeological excavations in Ethiopia. According to historians, these remains of spherical structures for smoking date back to the 14th century. There is also a theory according to which the tribes of Indians living in the territories of the modern USA, in addition to traditional pipes, also had interesting devices that resemble shisha by their functions.

Shishas came to Europe around the 19th century and for a long time they remained an expensive entertainment for wealthy people.

Digging deep down the history of the shisha, its evolution and spread, we dived into the ancient times and even felt like the discoverers of this mysterious tradition. Did you dive with us?

For our team, the tradition of shisha is not just a part of our job or a hobby. Our goal is to simultaneously assist in further evolution of the shisha industry. And at the same time to preserve the features of this tradition that came to us from such distant and such mysterious past.

September 29, 2020

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