The Origins of Enjoying Hookah


Hookah smoking is a unique way of enjoying flavored tobacco that is rooted in vibrant cultural traditions going back to at least the 14th century.

Drawing of 16th-century men enjoying shisha

Drawing of 14th-century men enjoying shisha

Use of the hookah type of water pipe originated in India after the European introduction of tobacco smoking into Persia and India when Hakim Abu’l-Fath Gilani, a Persian physician in the Mughal court of India raised health concerns about how popular tobacco smoking was becoming among the Indian and Persian noblemen. The doctor drew up plans for a device with features included to “purify” the harsh tobacco smoke by passing it through water before it came into contact with the body, and the gaylan, an early incarnation of the hookah, was born. Following popularity among noblemen, this new device for smoking soon became a status symbol for the Indian royalty and other wealthy classes.

Since then, people in the Middle East and Mediterranean region have been smoking hookah and other water pipes as part of their culture and traditions. Social smoking is done with a single or double hose hookah, and sometimes even triple or quadruple hose hookahs in the forms of parties or other multi person get togethers are used. When the smoker is finished, either the hose is placed back on the table signifying that it is available, or it is handed from one user to the next, folded back on itself so that the mouthpiece is not pointing at the recipient.

Most cafes in the Middle East and Mediterranean regionoffer hookah smoking with a selection of flavored shishas. Cafes are widespread and are almost seen as the default social gathering places in the Arab world. Because the bar/pub culture of the United States and Great Britain are not seen there, expats Brits and Americans arriving in the Middle East and Mediterranean regionoften find themselves adopting shisha cafes to make up for the lack, especially in areas where religious prohibition of alcohol is in place.

Hookah and shisha have found their way into communities far outside the Middle East and Mediterranean regionas well, as elements of culture brought and introduced to the new locale by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean immigrant families. The establishments owned and operated in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean quarters of cities all over the world have introduced the relaxing hookah smoking pastime to people from all backgrounds, and the crowd at Terrace on any given weekend is a terrific blend of all different types of people gathering to enjoy shisha and dinner under the stars.

If you’d like to join us, contact Terrace Restaurant and Lounge to make a reservation!