The Nargile, also known as hookah or hubble-bubble or sheesha or Turkish water pipe, is an old tradition in Turkey for smoking Turkish tobacco. The first type of nargile came from India, which was made of a simple coconut shell with a straw in it. Later on in Iran it took the name of “nargil”, meaning coconut in Persian, and then found its way into the Arab world and finally in the Ottoman Empire, when it became very popular between 17th and 19th centuries. During the Turkish Republic nargile lost its popularity as most of smokers switched to cigarettes. But recently the water pipe became a popular way of smoking again and especially in big cities many nargile cafeterias were opened. Today, not just old men but also many young men and women, both locals and tourists, smoke nargile in cafeterias or coffee houses around Turkey.
The nargile is a type of Turkish handycraft, it consists of four pieces: body (gövde), top bowl (lüle), tube (marpuç) and mouthpiece (agizlik). The glass body of the nargile is filled with cold water to the half and a metal pipe is placed into it. These glass bodies were mostly crafted in Beykoz district of Istanbul and had beautiful floral designs engraved on them. Some other types of bodies were also made of crystal, silver or porcelain. A long flexible hose is attached to the water pipe. This tube could be embellished with fabrics, embroidery or beadwork. There can even be two tubes attached so two people can smoke from the same nargile. The mouthpiece was generally carved out of amber, meerschaum stone or porcelain. When the smoker sucks on it, he draws tobacco smoke down through the hose and the water so the nicotine is filtered.
On top of the body there was the bowl with a small metal tray under it to catch cinders. The special nargile tobacco (tömbeki) is put in this bowl with a burning oak charcoal to ignite it and then covered with a cap. Not all tobaccos are qualified for usage in the water pipe, it’s a special dark and strong tobacco. Today, there are also flavored nargile tobaccos such as with vanilla, strawberries, apples etc.
It takes about 1-1:30 hour to smoke a water pipe, there is no rush and the smoker takes the things with ease and more relaxed. It is nothing like smoking a cigarette, it’s a different experience. Even though nargile lovers claim that it’s less intoxicating than the cigarettes, recent studies show that it’s still harmfull to human health like regular smoking. But it certainly is more fun.
Nargile is the traditional way of smoking in Turkey since Ottoman period.