Modern Greek History

All About Hookah in Greece

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Old Style Photo. Eastern Glass Hookah on the tableAlthough the idea of smoking out of a water pipe was actually invented in India in the 1500’s,  the practice of smoking using a hookah, or water pipe, is a common practice throughout Greece, particular by the younger generation in the hookah lounges that have sprung up all over the country. Although the Greek people have enjoyed smoking hookah for hundreds of years, it has recently had a resurgence and the practice is more common than it ever was. Here is some information about the practice of smoking hookah in Greece:

What is Hookah Exactly?

Hookah is actually another name for “water pipe”. The word, hookah, comes from the Turkish language, but several Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries have incorporated the water pipe into their culture, Greece included. In Greek, the water pipe is actually called ναργιλές, or nargiles and the practice is often referred to as, “shisha”. However, all three terms can be used interchangeably.

How does the Hookah Work?

A hookah is a complex contraption that is designed to allow the user to smoke out of a pipe. For it to work, the bottom chamber needs to be filled with water. There is a smaller chamber at the top of the contraption where the smoking material is housed. This is then covered with tin foil or a special screen and a piece of hot coal, similar to the coal used to light incense, is placed on top. In this way, the tobacco isn’t burned directly. In theory, this is supposed to prevent some of the harmful chemicals from going into your lungs, but this fact is under debate.

What Kind of Tobacco is Used?

Part of the fun of smoking hookah is that it is possible to select smoking material that is flavored, such as some of the flavored tobacco that is available now. When you arrive at the hookah lounge, someone will give you a “menu” that lists all the flavors and combinations that are available. Once you order the combination that you like, they’ll bring the contraption out to you with enough plastic mouthpieces for everyone in your party. Flavors include strawberry, mango, coconut, mint, and pineapple. Some lounges get creative and make combinations such as “Pina Colada”, which combine coconut and pineapple flavored hookah.

How Common is Smoking Hookah in Greece?

Another thing that people find enjoyable about smoking hookah is that it is a highly social activity. If you are dining at someone’s house and they happen to have a water pipe, it isn’t unlikely that they will light the pipe to do a little social smoking after eating. These days, however, most people tend to smoke in the hookah lounges and the practice isn’t necessarily common in the home.

What is the Etiquette for Smoking Hookah?

Since the practice is highly social, there is also some rules of etiquette for when you smoke hookah socially. Here’s a list of some practices to follow:

  • When passing the hose to another person, always do so with your right hand and with the tip facing yourself, not the other person.
  • It is considered best practice to use the individual plastic mouthpiece you’re given when you smoke at a lounge.
  • When your whole group is finished smoking, wrap the hose around the base to signal that you are done.

Even though hookah didn’t originate in Greece, it is a practice that has become a part of the culture. Although it isn’t a new concept, the practice has recently grown in popularity and as a result, hookah lounges have sprung up all over Greece.


Wikipedia – Hookah

Hookah Etiquette

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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