Get hooked on hookah!
The Turkish water pipe, like the hamam, used to be an integral part of the city’s social life. The experience of smoking the narghile (pronounced narg-ee-leh) is quite unique. And no, it’s nothing like smoking a cigarette. Smoking the hookah has its own meditative rhythm – you get to have enough time to sit there, to talk and think. Some even drink a cup of tea or coffee as they enjoy the intoxicating sensation brought about by the narghile.
Smokers, men and women, young and old alike, have enjoyed this Turkish pastime. Although we must say that the narghile traces its origins in India, Turkey (along with the Arab world) made it their own – improving the pipe’s design, and adding a series of rules to how it is smoked.
The hookah pipe is basically composed of 4 parts – the mouthpiece (agizlik), the tube (marpuc), the top of the pipe (lule) and the body where the water is placed (govde). The water is used to clean out the dirt generated from the burning tobacco. It also has an added benefit of being able to soak up the nicotine. Meanwhile, the tobacco is placed into the lule, which usually has a cap so that the flame will not die out. The smoke goes up the tube (marpuc). Sometimes, there are pipes that sport multiple tubes, so that friends can share the smoke together. This pipe may be adorned by beadwork, handicrafts and embroidery.
How does the hookah pipe work? It uses the principles of water filtration, as well as indirect heat. The typical hookah pipe usually sports an exquisite design – an objet d’art, if you will. Craftsmen take special pride in fashioning pipe with special designs (mostly floral motifs) – this got to the degree that the pipes were named after the craftsmen. The mouthpiece is usually crafted from amber while the body of the pipe is made using fine crystal, porcelain or silver. Additional embellishments make use of coral and gold.
In addition, the tobacco used for the hookah pipe is usually the kind that comes all the way from Iran. This dark tobacco (called Tombeki) has a strong flavor and requires frequent washing to tone down the flavor. For added flavor and variety, you may add rose oil or juice (from pomegranates or other fruits). Other options include cannabis and herbal fruits.
Sadly, at the appearance of cigarettes, hookah smoking took a back seat, with fewer and fewer hookah bars as time passes. However, there still is a special breed of smokers that still yearn for the experience.
To smoke, suck gently, instead of inhaling vigorously, like you would when you smoke a cigarette. The motion of gentle sucking makes bubbling sounds in the govde. One other tip – never light your pipe using the fire from someone else’s pipe! That’s a definite no-no.
You can avail of the hookah in some of the bars and narghile cafes in Istanbul. You can also buy the pipe at the Grand Bazaar.