I Bet You Didn’t Know The Hookah Origin!

If you are a hookah lover like me, always wondering where this fantastic invention came from.

Or who created hookah? From where hookah originated?

Then you are in luck today!

Here’s all you need to know about the origin of hookah and its culture.

From hundreds of years of hookah history to the modern flavored tobacco hookah culture, let’s dive deep and know the history of the fantastic invention we all love today.

Let’s begin:

The Indian Origins of Hookah

According to Wikipedia, the hookah pipe or waterpipe originated in the 16th century in India.

It was also when the Portuguese introduced tobacco to Iran; however, the Shah of Iran, Abbas the Great, had made tobacco smoking illegal.

Coming to the Indian theory, during the Mughal rule on the Indian subcontinent, tobacco was getting popular across the country.

It was the time when Portugal dominated trade with the Indian subcontinent, in which tobacco was imported continuously after growing in Brazil.

Traders bought tobacco in bulk and started trying it for various purposes, which is how tobacco got popular then.

The popularity of tobacco captured the attention of Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Mughal ruler of India at that time.

However, the emperor Akbar’s chief physician was more concerned about the unfiltered tobacco smoke.

It means that physicians knew the significant health risks of smoking tobacco even then.  

The chief Physician of Akbar was Abu’l-Fath Gilani, who got the idea of filtering tobacco smoke through water to make it safe for the emperor.

And it is how the chief physician of Akbar created a water pipe through which the emperor could smoke tobacco, ultimately creating the hookah.

Therefore, hookah originated in India.

And then became famous worldwide as time passed.

However there are multiple theories claiming hookah origin, but the Indian origin of hookah is one of the most credible origin stories.

However, as most people believe in the Indian origin of hookah, we will also consider this for our guide.

The History of Hookah – 500 Years of Smoking Tradition

As of now, you already know, tobacco got popular in the 16th century.

Later, when tobacco became famous nationwide, people started consuming it differently.

And when the emperor of the Indian subcontinent of that time, Akbar, found out about the tobacco, his chief physician invented a water pipe, or today’s hookah, so that the emperor could smoke filtered tobacco.

However, if we dive further, history claims that tobacco was introduced in the region for the first time during the mid-1500s.

Tobacco didn’t take time to get popular across the region, and people were looking for different ways to consume it.

And it was also when Indian glass manufacturing began due to exporting glass to India through the British East India Company.

To purify the tobacco smoke through a glass base known as “Shisha,” hookah was introduced.

And it was when many hookah smokers belonged to the high-class noblemen.

It was why hookah was culturally involved in high society people first, and from there on, it passed through the generations further.

So, let’s dive deeper into the different time frames and know the status of hookah throughout several years.  

The 17th Century: Wide-Held Acceptance

Although tobacco was introduced in the mid-1500s and got popular quickly.

But it took several more years for smoking tobacco to become less taboo and more acceptable among people.

Smoking hookah became somewhat of a status symbol, especially among upper-class people, during the 17th century when hookah became famous in India and Persia.

Due to the popularity of hookah among upper-class people and the aristocracy of Persia and India, a new work field started taking place – that of hookah servants.

A hookah servant was specially kept to prepare and maintain hookah for the upper-class people or, more specifically, for the aristocratic people.

Furthermore, in this time, the hookah also evolved when craftsmen worked on the woodworking techniques for setting hookah for more aesthetic looks.

During this time, various tobacco leaves were also being used, where Ajami (dark-leaf tobacco) was quite popular.

As the hookah became a status symbol, it became more accessible among people, and even Shah then started having servants for nargileh (one of the other names for the word hookah).

The 18th Century

In the 18th century, hookah got into Turkey, becoming more popular there.

The Turkish started working on hookah designs and were the first to ornately decorate their water pipes in different ways.

Soon, hookah became a popular cultural obsession in the country.

Hookah became an important symbol of trust and building relationships; during political meetings, it became quite common to see hookah and smoking shisha coming out.

The hookah was the symbol of friendship and trust offered to the visitor.

Therefore, we can say that the 18th century was when hookah flourished throughout Turkey.

The 19th Century: Into Egypt

During the 18th century, hookah or water pipes improved their look and popularity in Turkey.

It was until the 19th century that tobacco was mixed with molasses or honey for flavoring.

People were now experimenting with tobacco to bring more pleasure and fun while smoking hookah.

This time, hookah continued to spread towards the east and south, reaching northern Africa and becoming incredibly popular in Egypt.

In Egypt, people started mixing tobacco with molasses or honey and combining it with other flavoring agents like lemon, watermelon, and other fruits.  

That means it was clear that hookah was now very common, and people were looking for more than just tobacco taste.

Also, during this time in Egypt, smoking tobacco through water pipes became more popular among ordinary people, which resulted in the opening of hookah clubs and lounges.

Even Egypt was the first place to have its version of a hookah lounge.

The vision of opening hookah lounges and shisha cafes was to host people from all backgrounds to enjoy hookah together and socialize.

So, in short, in the 19th century, hookah evolved further, and people enjoyed it with different tastes and flavors.

Hookah lounges and clubs also contributed to making hookah more common among everyone.

The 20th Century: A Global Spread

From Turkey to Egypt and now across the globe, hookah became popular worldwide during the 20th century.

As international travelers from the Middle East and India brought their traditions with them, hookah became more popular and used as a fun and socializing tool.

However, in the homelands of hookah, it grew further with more improvements in the structure, appearance, and overall as a hobby.

The 21st Century: America Discovers Hookah

The 21st century was when the hookah industry surfaced in the United States due to the new technology coming out, and it helped people improve the quality of products.

Apart from this, people started putting innovations in crafting various flavors to fulfill the demand of hookah smokers.

Combined with technology, hookah is widespread among young adults and people with improved quality smoke and flavors.

Furthermore, the hookah evolved with modern tech, and therefore, it also went through modern development.

Whether it is about replacing heat management devices with the traditional coal method or using other flavorful drinks instead of water, hookah has evolved with time.

However, even with that, hookahs in the U.S. and other countries are treated to show respect and provide good hospitality.

Family members, close friends, and get-together parties are the events that are made better with hookah sessions.

And with new shisha flavors coming now and then, hookah has become very popular among young adults in the U.S.

It is why new businesses also provide high-quality hookah accessories, tobacco or shisha flavors, and other tools to better your experience.

Above all, hookah session brings people together despite social class, religion, or political beliefs.

And it is why hookah remains intact, with roots of traditions and culture that made it familiar even after 500 years of its inception.

Spreading Far And Wide

In today’s era, hookah is widely prevalent among new adults and adults in their 20s enjoying hookah with friends and family members.

And due to the new proposals of smoking shisha tobacco, flavors, and enhanced quality of tobacco smoke through various techniques, hookah is spreading far and wide quickly.

Whether you are a fan of fruity shisha tobacco flavors or traditional dark tobacco leaf flavors, you will have all of them at your fingertips.

Businesses are coming to improve the hookah smoking experience for people to improve the quality of hookah parts and smoking experience.

For instance, whether you are a beginner or a pro hookah smoker, you will find Icon Hookah, where you can find the best quality hookah equipment.

From shisha flavors to top-notch hookah accessories, they have got it all.

Thanks to these businesses that have kept the tradition of 500 years among people while increasing the quality of it with innovation and technology.

The First Hookah Created

The first hookah was created in the 16th century in the Fatehpur Sikri city of the Indian subcontinent.

The inventor was Abul-Fath Gilani, a Persian physician of Emperor Akbar.

After that, hookah got famous from the Indian subcontinent to Persia first, where hookah got its outer shape modified.

However, there are multiple theories associating various countries with originating hookah, but most believe in the Indian origin story.

Before hookah became so popular, it was tobacco smoking that got widespread among people of the 16th century.

Once tobacco was common for consumption, people started finding various ways to enjoy it.

After hookah existed for the first time, it was only popular among aristocrats and was a status symbol then.

People even had servants to maintain and prepare hookahs for them.

Hookahs And Hookah Culture Today

Today’s hookah culture has evolved from the time of its inception.

However, hookah’s ultimate goal remains to enjoy the hookah session with your friends, relatives, and family members.

In the early time of hookah invention, it brought trust and good relationships among people.

On the other hand, in today’s time, hookah is either a hobby or an enjoyable tool used to get pleasure from burnt tobacco.

With new flavors coming now and then, young adults find hookah more attractive and have made it a tool to get pleasure from tobacco and shisha smoking.

At the time of inventing hookah, it was available to high-class people only, whereas in today’s time, anybody can have hookah and enjoy the traditional tobacco smoke.

How Did Hookah Spread And Grew Over Time?

After originating from India, hookah first went to Persia, Turkey, and Egypt and then moved on to other countries as time passed.

Due to its unique concept of smoking tobacco smoke, it got popular quickly.

Also, the social status symbol of hookah helped it keep people engaged for better relationships.

At some times, rejecting offered hookah could also lead to consequences.

That showed how much people used to like and enjoy hookah during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

The modern development of hookah began at the beginning of the 21st century when new tech and modern development started taking place.

Thanks to the modern tech and inventions that made better hookah accessories and hookah shisha flavors that make your every hookah session much better.


Who created the hookah?

According to Wikipedia, Abul-Fath Gilani invented hookah or water pipe and was a Persian physician of Emperor Akbar in the Indian city of Fatehpur Sikri during Mughal India.
Therefore, the origination of hookah took place in the Indian subcontinent during the 16th century.

When was the first hookah made?

The first hookah in the form that we know today dates back to 16th century India. It was when glass manufacturing began as glass export in India was happening under the British East India Company.
During this time, smoking tobacco or hookah became popular among nobleman society or aristocratic people.

Where is hookah culture from?

Hookah originated in India in the 16th century. It was when tobacco got popular in the region, and hookah became so popular that it became a status symbol among upper-class people.

And within time, hookah became famous worldwide, and even now, in the U.S. and other countries, hookah is quite popular, especially among young adults.

Summing Up

Hookah originated in India around the 16th century and was widespread in other countries.

Over 500 years of a long history of hookah tobacco smoking, it has evolved beautifully, brought people closer, and built healthier relationships.

However, nowadays, people use shisha tobacco more likely for tobacco kicks.

Especially Young adults are more likely to fall for hookah smoking.

And the new shisha flavors and tobacco flavors are contributing to making hookah even more popular among young ones for smoking shisha tobacco.

However, one must remember that throughout hookah history, it contained tobacco.

And tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive chemical.

Furthermore, hookah brings other consequences, which you can check out from this post.

Also, you can check out our hookah hack guides, such as the Hookah Wind Cover guide with aluminum foil.

Our author
Peter Russell

I smoke hookah every day. Like daily with my gang. This is what I love the most when the thick smoke comes out of my mouth, giving me the best feeling in the world. I have been smoking hookah since 2010, and one day, my friend suggested I share my experience with the newbies. So here I am sharing my whole lot of experience of smoking. Use my tips to smoke better and enjoy every day of your life.

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