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Damascus Ma'loula


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Narghile around the world   

    Iran        India        Afghanistan     China


Narghiles of the royal court were famous. P. Sabbagh reported that the the Shah's personal narghile was, in 1900 , estimated at two million francs-gold... Jean Chardin, a famous French traveller who went through Persia between years 1673 and 1677, brought back a magnificent description of narghile (locally named "qalyân") ending on a picturesque note:

"These bottles are usually full of flowers for the entire satisfaction of eyes. At least once in the daytime, water is changed after it is quite corrupted and stinking because of the tobacco spirits. I tried a cup of this water and I felt that it is a quick remedy to vomit up my intestines" (from French).

In current modern Iran, the narghile life-style continues. For instance, in Darban, a small town in the South of Teheran, women, alone, accompanied with their husband or mother, find the road of traditional tea-houses, in an "atmosphere of holiday resort, delicious: sat down on a carpet, people come there at least once a week to sip its tea, to nibble at dates and smoke a ghalian - a narghile, and speak freely" (from French - T. Rocher).

This country has known a historic use of hookah. Narghile was, in




1840, very common during dinners, at officers' tables, and its typical gurgling could be heard till late in the night. Old Indians even kept this custom when travelling abroad. A Scottish lady is also reported to have gone on smoking narghile for several years after her return to her home land (Yule &Burnell). Let us mention here a characteristic of the British Crown aristocracy so aficionada of narghile: that of the "hooka-burdar" (from the Persian "hukka-bardâr", i.e. a hooka-bearer), a servant in charge of the full-time maintenance of his boss' narghile, also to be found in Persia' shahs or contemporary Yemen.

Today, after twenty years of wars ravaging this country, narghile symbolically refers, in the mind of some, to a good peaceful past:

"Farther, on what was Jod-e-Maiwan, a thoroughfare where shops were falling into line and where, sat down on carpets, talkative peaceful Kaboulis formerly used to drink tea and smoke narghile, fights sometimes break out from a house to the other through shell-holes..." (From French - Le Monde).


C.-J. Charpentier

Afghans smoke narghile through a reed, never through a flexible hose, coiling up like a snake, massively used in many others countries. Nowadays, water is not flavoured any more, as H.W Bellew already reported in 1863. For its combustion, a charcoal named mangal or buhari is used. However, dried horse-dung may sometimes replace the latter, as also observed in nearby India. "Chillam", as is called the Afghan narghile, is generally smoked at home or inside tea-houses. Tobacco is scarcely inhaled "dry", that is without water in the vase. Hashish (chars) is also consumed. Young people seem to lose more and more interest in the chillam, preferring cigarettes to it; an evolution which one can observe almost everywhere in the world (C.-J. Charpentier).



The Chinese narghile has a very peculiar shape: it looks like a big and generally decorated lighter. Its little bowl is designed to embed tiny balls of tobacco smoked in two or three drafts. Carlos Armero wrote that Chinese accepted narghile because it was perfectly adapted to the consumption of a mixture of opium and tobacco while transforming it into a less sophisticated and more portable device. However, one also finds:

- The "Bang" pipe, made out of a big bamboo containing water, in which the bowl comes to fit obliquely in it. It is made of bamboo, engraved or inlaid with mother-of-pearl wood. This model particularly draw the attention of cannabis consumers, particularly American, who adapt it every day and endeavour to improve it in order to reduce the risks for their health. In their own vocabulary, it became the "bong".

- The pot-like pipe, in which the main element is the water vessel. It is made of bamboo or wood decorated with silver or mother-of-pearl.



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