Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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The history of the hubble-bubble

Juliette Adida remembers the first night she spent with a hookah.

The Communication senior, an international student from France, went with a group of friends to an Egyptian hookah bar in Paris when she was a sophomore in high school.

“I already knew about hookahs from TV documentaries,” Adida said. “Then, when I traveled to Tunisia with my family, I would see old men in terraces smoking it. (Hookahs) are also pretty popular in Europe.”

In the same fashion that other European trends (like stilettos, the English language and “American Idol”) crossed the pond and found success in the States, the hookah (pronounced WHO-kah) might become the next “It” import in no time flat.

Funny thing is, this curious glass-and-brass contraption has been around for centuries. Born in India in the 1400s, the hookah — also known as “nargeeleh,” “nargile” or “hubble-bubble” (for the muted burbling noise it makes) — is a water pipe used to smoke tobacco. It quickly spread to Arab countries like Persia, Iran, Syria, Yemen and Egypt. At each stop on the hookah’s hazy path, it developed into a more sophisticated apparatus. It went from the rudimentary coconut-and-straw look of its Indian roots to its current form, which is essentially a glass vessel with hoses to smoke from attached to the body, a head that holds tobacco and hot coals and a straw that runs from the head through the vessel.

Initially, smokers used hookahs to inhale pure, hardcore tobacco. Arab countries added flavor to the tobacco, producing the hookah with its present-day signature appeal.

“With a hookah, you can smoke aromatic tobacco,” Adida said. “I’ve tried flavors like strawberry, melon and even rose. I just like the taste of it.”

Perhaps the flavored tobacco gave the pipe an even sturdier platform to popularity. In any case, the hookah hit its heyday when it reached the Ottoman Empire in the early 1600s. With the introduction of tobacco in Turkey, a coffeehouse culture centered on smoking sprung up throughout the country.

The hookah, of course, became the nucleus of social interaction, a status barometer and, eventually, a symbolic tradition.

“In Turkey, they would use hookahs as a treaty device,” said Vartan Seferian, the owner of the newly opened Caf

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
The history of the hubble-bubble