Hookah 101—Middle Eastern Water Pipe Smoking

Young woman holding a hookah
Wilfried Krecichwost / Getty Images

You may know it by hookah, narghile, sheesha, or perhaps as hubbly bubbly. Middle Eastern water pipe smoking in on the rise in Western countries and you may have even noticed hookah lounges popping up in your neighborhood. So, what is a hookah?

Hookah is the name of a large water pipe that originated in India but gained popularity in the Middle East, mainly in Turkey and Iran. It is a large pipe that utilizes water and indirect heat for smoking.

Shisha is the name of the tobacco mixture that is smoked in the water pipe. Shisha comes in several flavors, with fruit flavors being the most popular.

Smoking the hookah is a social activity that is gaining popularity all over the world, especially among young people. A typical hookah session lasts about 45 minutes and a hookah can be shared by one or several people.

Traditionally, the hookah pipe is reserved for men. It is extremely frowned upon for women to smoke the water pipe. However, you may see female tourists in Middle Eastern countries like Egypt enjoying the water pipe.