The Hookah’s origin traces back to India. It surfaced in the form we know it as today around the 15th Century when Indian Glass manufacturing began as a result of the exporting of glass to India through the British East India Company. The glass base was called Shisha. Its mystique spread to Iran where special strong, flavorless tobacco was used with it called “Ajami”. It rose to fame under the Ottoman Empire’s rule around the time of Murat V in 1623-1640. The sultans of the age took portraits with their Nargiles and it became a status symbol of the time. It was smoked after royal dinners and at diplomatic meetings.
Hookahs are known around the world by many different names, such as a water pipe, nargeela/nargile/narghile/nargileh, argeela/arghileh, shisha/sheesha, okka, kalyan, or ghelyoon or ghalyan. Many of these names are of Arab, Somalian, Indian, Ethiopian, Turkish, Uzbek, or Persian origin.
Shisha, a synonym for Hookah, is from the Persian word shishe, literally translated as glass and not bottle. It is more commonly used in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
Many in the U.S. tend to refer to the tobacco smoked from a hookah as “shisha.” This incorrect use of the term derived from the use of slang in the Middle East, where it is common to request a “flavored shisha” which means a Hookah with flavored tobacco.