The Rise of the Hookah in American Culture

July 9, 2015

Hookah bars are swathed in the charm of what is new, unfamiliar, and unique. Dim lighting reflecting off the smoke hanging in the air; a mild, sweet aroma lingers in the midst. It is so sweet you can almost taste it. So pleasant and pure, and unlike tobacco, it is neither musty nor putrid. You have just entered the Hookah lounge…

Hookah is also known as a water pipe, shisha and narghile and its migration to the west has become a pervasive part of the millennial/college adult culture in America. So what is it about the Hookah that is so entrancing?

Since its origination in India, Hookah has been used to relieve stress and encourage discussion. Unlike cigarette smoking, hookah smoking is a social event. Several people gather together during a hookah session. The social atmosphere, leisurely smoking, and the combined aromas for the flavored tobacco and International cuisine lead to relaxing atmosphere, anyone with a busy lifestyle can appreciate.

Absolem, the hookah smoking Caterpillar, while sharing his infinite wisdom with Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” smoked a long bubble pipe. In the “Star Wars” trilogy, Jabba the Hut is seen with his Hookah beside him in nearly every scene and generations before those films, the classic “Casablanca” featured hookah smoking. And in “300” we could not miss the goat man smoking a Hookah inside Xerxes tent.

When you inhale smoke from a hookah a number of things may happen. You will notice a change in your posture; you may find yourself leaning back with your arms spread and one knee up, and in a word, you will find yourself completely…relaxed. One other side effect – you may find yourself uncontrollably babbling and sharing your personal philosophies, meanwhile, the hummus and pita chips that you are presented with will be the best tasting food in the universe.

Despite the well publicized facts about what hookah is, people are using them to communally share cocktails, good times, good food, and yes…to simply chill. For the deviant college identity subculture, smoking hookah is right up there with playing hacky sack, neglecting to wear shoes, avoiding Wal-Mart, recycling, and whatever else seems to be the un-trendy- trendy thing to do.

There is a “cool” factor to hookah that we should all recognize. Hookah Lounges are a great option for those who do not drink at bars. For a couple of bucks you smoke a pile, talk to your friends, and enjoy the evening in a relaxed atmosphere. Once in a while we all need to unwind and allow ourselves to be entranced by the allure of this exotic and esoteric practice, because sometimes, simply chilling, once in a while, can be an absolute luxury.

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