Some call it a Hookah, others a nargile(h), arguile(h), hubble bubble, water-pipe, even a shisha. This ancient water pipe has been used for centuries to smoke away the day's stress, while relaxing with friends and relatives. This smoking experience has been in use for quite a long time. It started out many centuries ago in India, it rapidly spread to Iran and than to the Arab world. Turkish have been smoking arguileh for the past 400 years.

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 Turkey that the nargile completed its revolution, and did not change its style for the last few hundred years.

The nargile itself consists of 4 pieces which are as follows: Agizlik (mouthpiece), L?le (the top of the nargile), Marpu? (the tube) and the G?vde (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 piece they produced.

L?le makers generally produced L?les in Tophane and the govde’s (bottles) were manufactured in Beykoz. These govde’s were a unique example 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 favour with the nargile user. This 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 flavour.

Since very early times, the Indians have been raising hemp and employing such plants as medicines. Originally only its seed was used to obtain cannabis oil, but with time, the qualities of the plant’s leaves were discovered and they were exploited in the production of intoxicants, thus leading to the discovery of hashish.

Thus drug was originally employed as a powerful anaesthetic, but with the admixture of other plants and spices, a sort of paste was produced and by eating it they made it a pleasure and habit to delve into a dream world. Not being satisfied with this, they attempted to obtain the drug in its pure form, for which purpose they felt the need for various devices. It was the narghile, which arose as the natural result of those desires.

The precursor of the narghile is the narcil, a type of coconut, which grows commonly in India. The inner meat of this nut was removed and the shell was pierced, following which a straw was placed inside, the resulting “device” being the first simple form of the modern narghile. It was from the name of this nut that this primitive device was also called narcil.

Subsequently the device reached Egypt by various routes where its form was somewhat changed. For example, the body was made from a gourd rather than from a coconut shell.

Although the name narcil was still adopted, owing to differences in pronunciation the /?/ sound was read as a/g/ and thus the word became entrenched as nargile, or narghile.

The Persians saw this device and liked it, and they developed it even further, adding a number of parts. The body, which originally consisted of a coconut shell and then a gourd, they made into a porcelain flask, and instead of the straw, they added a soft and flexible part which resembled a hose and which was mucn more practical. They called this part marpic, which in Persian means, “snake coil.”

Around that time, tobacco was discovered and with the beginning of its use as an intoxicant, the Persians experimented with the substance. For this purpose, they developed a tray to be placed above the body, which would hold the tobacco. Made of bronze to ensure its strength, this tray was given the name ser, which means “head”. It was also the Persians who first made use of the type of tobacco known as t?mbeki.

The Arabs also made use of the narghile. Nevertheless, they employed it in its primitive form, which is to say, using the coconut shell. Narghiles with bodies of coconut shell, long wooden heads, set on iron stands and with hoses sewn from thick cloth were in use in Syria and the Yemen.
The arrival of the narghile among in Turkey took place at quite a late stage. Although there is no specific date indicated, it would be correct to state that it was used after the introduction of tobacco into the country.

Narghiles, where been made, according to their own tastes, and made them more useable. For example, above the “head” they placed a bowl the “head” they placed a bowl of baked clay and they added a mouthpiece to the portion of the hose, which entered the mouth. The body they made of glass, crystal, rock crystal, porcelain and even silver. To the heads, which they made of brass and silver, they added a pipe holder, which were decorated at their extremities with plant motifs and carvings.

Narghiles are used as follows. First the tobacco is set in the pipe and a bit of lit charcoal is placed on top of it. When the mouthpiece at the end of the hose is placed in the mouth and inhaled upon, the air in the space at the top of the bottle passes through the pipe with the smoke and enters the water through the tube attached to it, which extends into the water. Cleansed by the water, the smoke collects in the empty space at the top of the bottle and when the narghile hose is sucked upon, the smoke washed and somewhat purified of its nicotine enters the mouth.

Though narghiles are used today, they have lost their former importance. Since their use, preparation, and transportation are not very practical, very few persons for pleasure use them.