Smoking hookah has always been a pleasurable experience for me, but most of us tend to forget the cultural impact and history of such an activity. As an American, sometimes I have to remind myself that such a culturally rich experience like Hookah started far away and long ago.

Firstly, it is important to mention that the word “Hookah” is more or less an adaptation from India, where the word gained huge popularity through the English speaking world. It is, however, considered the wrong terminology to many traditional tobacco smoking cultures. For most countries of the Arab world, “Sheesha” or Shisha is a much more accepted terminology. Though there are many different words to call it, this is definitely the most accepted term.

That being said, there are many different words to use, and while Sheesha may be the most appropriate word to use, it would be fun to know others! In places such as Turkey and Iraq, the word Argilah or نارجيلة in Arabic is used. In places such as Bulgaria, Nargile or Narguile are popular terms to use. Iran is another country that has a unique term, Qalyān. Afghanistan has a familiar name; they refer to hookah as chillim.

In the Philippines, the term Hitboo is used, which is certainly interesting! One would expect familiar words from the European countries, but more often than not their terminology is just as strange. In Germany, the term Wasserpfeife is used. It almost sounds like the word “pipe” when you say it aloud. In Spain, the term narguile or cachimba is used, which is festive and fun, just like Spain! Estonia has an interesting and perky term, Vesipiibu. In Hungary, it is similar to Estonia, vízipipa. In China, they refer to Hookah as Shuǐyān, or 水烟. Last, but not least, the Japanese refer to Hookah/Shisha as Mizu Giseru, or 水ギセル.

No matter what country you are from, and what language you speak, smoking hookah tobacco can be very pleasurable and very social. It can bring cultures together on a level playing field, and help people come to mutual understandings over something that can be segregated away from politics and religion, and we can always use more divergent topics in this regard all around the world.

hookah shisha around the world