Are Hookah Pipes Dangerous or Decor Items?
Hookahs have been around for hundreds of years in many cultures. It's probably the fact that they originated in the Far East that makes me love the look and the shape of these objects.
I first came across them when I had the most wonderful vacation in Morocco. This was many, many years ago. I won't say exactly how many, but suffice it to say that this was the hippie era and anything with Far Eastern, Indian, or North African styling was incredibly popular.
The hookahs I remember seeing in the souks of Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fez were mainly wonderful concoctions of brass or silver which had been beautifully engraved, plus there were fabulous, coloured glass options too.
My mum though, who didn't quite trust Morocco, was certain though that these wonderful hookahs were used exclusively for smoking kif (marijuana). She didn't mind that I was spending my hard-earned money on an afghan coat, an embroidered top, and a splendid tooled leather bag (all at bargain prices) but she drew the line when I wanted to buy a hookah.
Are hookah pipes an important part of history? Or are they a dangerous avenue to drug use? Read on to learn more.
(I also find them rather romantic.)
Part of the Culture
As you can see from this wonderful image above, hookahs were used by both men and women. The tobacco they used was called shisha, which is a mix that includes molasses.
In some countries, the sight of someone using a hookah is as normal as seeing someone smoke a cigarette or cigar.
The difference is that the tobacco is filtered through water within the device itself. Does that make using it less harmful than other tobacco products?
Hookah itself, of course, is just an object. So it depends on what you use it for. Medical experts say that smoking tobacco carries the same health risks, no matter what sort of vessel you use.
The same applies if you're using it as a bong to smoke marijuana. The device itself makes no difference, according to experts.
Also, of course, you can use it simply as décor in your home (they are very gorgeous), or use herbal smoking products. These aren't remotely like the old-style 'herbal cigarettes' of years ago and can help if you're giving up the real thing.
So you see, I don't agree with my mum who thinks that owning one is just a step away from smoking illegal substances. I think they are beautiful and traditional objects.
As with many decorative objects, they are not harmful themselves, but it's their usage that counts. Look how many castles and stately homes have weapons from the past on display. These are historical objects. No one is suggesting that they might lead to violence.
It would be a shame if these traditional and rather beautiful items were no longer available simply because they have been misused by a tiny minority.
Although it's unknown where these items exactly originated, it is often believe that the idea of the hookah was born in India. Today, they are is a standard form of decoration in Indian businesses in the UK, notably restaurants.
Have You Ever Used One?
The first recorded use was in the sixteenth century. Since then, it has often been depicted in various art forms. See the image below.
The richness of the colours and the designs of the fabric bring an atmospheric motif into the painting.
This is not only another era, it appears to be another world.
In nineteenth century Europe, particularly in France, painters became fascinated by the art and design of the East. Many travelled to places, such as Egypt and North Africa, in order to study and to record the rich designs and the mysterious and romantic towns, cities, and people.
An example was Jean-Léon Gérôme. You can see a crop from one of his paintings on the right. This is a bathing scene from a harem and you can see that the seated lady has a hookah.
The painting below shows another example from this genre. Eugene Delacroix's painting displays one being used, also. Delacroix was regarded as the leader of the French romantic school of painting and the example below is indicative of that appellation.
As you can imagine, the European public hugely appreciated this glimpse into life in other lands. The culture of the areas — the design work and the society — differed so much from their own and décor items in this style became popular throughout European countries, embracing items such as china, lighting, wall coverings, and of course, wall art.
Below are some personal photos of mine.
Have you ever used a hookah pipe?
© 2014 Jackie Jackson