NARGILE - A TRADITION COMES TO PASS
One of the oldest and deep rooted traditions in Egypt is the Nargile
(shisha pipe), with both men and women finding great pleasure in smoking the
waterpipe. The nargile started a whole new culture which endured for many,
many years. Even today the nargile gives enjoyment to a special breed of
The original nargile came from India, but it was rather primitive as it was
made out of coconut shell. Its popularity spread to Iran and then to the
rest of the Arab world. But it was in Egypt that the nargile completed its
revolution, and did not change its style for the last few hundred years.
The nargile became a very important part of the coffee shop culture, finding
its popularity in Egypt around the time of Murat the IV'th, 1623-40. The
joy that the smokers received from this very simple yet beautiful smoking
apparatus was unbelievable. Rules were created even for lighting the pipe,
and if a professional smoker saw anyone lighting it the incorrect way, the
culprit would be told in no uncertain term " Do yourself and the sacred
nargile a favor and put out the coals by blowing into it."
The nargile itself consists of 4 pieces which are as follows: Agizlik
(mouthpiece), Lüle (the top of the nargile), Marpuç (the tube) and the Gövde
(the body of the pipe which is filled with water). All pieces of the pipe
were produced by special craftsmen, who were named after the pece they
produced. Even today, the areas where these craftsmen used to concentrate
are called by these names, such as "Marpuççular."
Lüles were generally produced in Tophane by Lule makers and the govde's
(bottles) were manufactured in Beykoz. These govde's were a unique exaple of
Turkish handcraft and were decorated with floral motifs. Some were made out
of silver or crystal. The agizlik's (mouthpieces) were generally carved out
of the top of quality amber, because people in those days believed that
amber was not the carrier of germs.
Not all tobaccos qualified for usage in the nargile, and only the dark
tobacco imported from Iran found favor with the nargile user. This hookah tobacco
was washed several times before use as it was extremely strong. Only oak
charcoal was used to be placed on the top of the tobacco. Some professional
nargile smokers used certain fruit, like sour cherries or grapes in their
govde just to enjoy the motion it created in the water. Other people enjoyed
adding pomegranate juice or rose oil to their water for added flavor.
The nargile smoker hated anyone lighting their cigarettes on their nargile
fire because they felt it disturbed the rhythm of the burning charcoal. It
was greatly frowned upon if anyone was seen lighting or smoking a nargile
not according to the tradition.
The nargile was so popular and fashionable with the elite ladies of the 19th
and the beginning of the 20th century, that it became the in thing to be
photographed with a nargile. If you wanted to be the hostess with the
mostest the nargile was a must for popular afternoon tea and intellectual
Unfortunately like most wonderful things from the past, the nargile suffered
a decline with the availability of the cigarettes. But still today, one is
able to find a special type of smoker that would only find their enjoyment
from smoking the nargile.
Turkish Daily News