Hookah Blog

Is it Hookah or Shisha? That depends on where you live.

Is it Hookah or Shisha? That depends on where you live.

24th May 2022

Hello Fumari Family, and welcome to the blog. The word Hookah means everything to us and as we have traveled across the world and shared sessions with friends from abroad, we have heard the vocabulary surrounding hookah change from region to region. This is where the age-old question of “is it called Hookah or Shisha?” comes into play. Whether you’re calling it Hookah, Shisha, or even Hubbly-Bubbly, it’s all the same, only the names will change. Join us as we highlight the regions where hookah is most popular and discover what they refer to it as - along with what you will find in these markets.    

Hookah – United States

Our first stop is on our home turf, where Hookah dominates the scene. While you may come across a shop or lounge using the term Shisha, these are easily outnumbered by 4 to 1.

Apart from being known as the region calling this cultural past time as “Hookah”, the US is mainly synonymous with the innovation of hookah tobacco flavors as a whole. Prior to the late 90s and early 2000s, hookah tobacco flavors were nearly all of the same variety. When American hookah tobacco brands like Fumari entered the market the first item on the agenda was to innovate and modernize the taste of hookah for the western hemisphere. Aside from hookah tobacco, the US is also known for high-quality and handmade phunnel bowls as well as hookah pipe powerhouses like Regal Hookahs.    

Shisha – Germany/Turkey

With the influx of Turkish culture being more tangible in this region, Shisha is what you will hear more often than not when venturing out to enjoy a night with your head in the clouds in Germany or Turkey to an extent.

Turkey has roots in shisha’s long-standing tradition, as this was the region that popularized handmade brass/copper pipes that exuded luxury and high-class through royal and religious engravings. The German market on the other hand is far from traditional when looking at what they are known for. Walk into any shop or lounge in this area and you will be met with surgical grade stainless steel and purging systems like you could have never imagined. While the designs of the shishas themselves may appear minimalistic in nature, the smoke quality and sensation of using one is an experience we highly recommend to anyone that has not yet had the luxury. It should be noted that this is the area that popularized the use of silicone hoses as well as threaded vase connections as a way of eliminating the need for grommets altogether.    

Narguile – Brazil

As hookah was introduced to other parts of the world with copious immigration, Narguile is the term that took off in Brazil and what it is still commonly referred to as when enjoying the tradition is this beautiful subtropic climate.

Brazil, while still new to the game, has pioneered several products that keep them a strong contender in the marketplace. The most influential is their modular, wide-open draw hookahs and color schemes. This region lives boldly, and with celebrations such as Carnaval or local hookah fests, narguiles follow suit with vivacious and in-your-face colors that adorn these precisely milled pipes. Aside from colors and multi-setting narguiles, the need for minimalistic, yet cheap vinyl-based hoses and desktop-sized narguiles presented itself and spread worldwide.    

Cachimba/Chicha – Spain

Spain has a unique name all its own for this means of relaxation, Cachimba. There are regions within the country that have a larger influx of middle eastern populations which account for Chicha being common terminology as well as Shisha. These three terms all mean one thing in Spain though, good times and tasty clouds are in order.

Spain is a huge supplier for Europe and worldwide of one thing when it comes to cachimba, bowls. With clay being part of the culture and known worldwide in the region, it is no surprise that the artisans began to “throw” bowls into their mix as a means to innovate the market. We fell in love with these bowls after the first puff as the smoke quality can rival even the most high-end American clay bowls. We knew we had to bring them back home for all of our Fumari Family to enjoy, check out the Fumari Phunnel Bowl and see what a bit of Spanish love can bring to your session!    

Arguileh/Narguileh – Middle East

For generations hookah has been passed around as part of cultural traditions in nations like Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, and Qatar, but depending on where you are you may hear Arguileh, Narguileh, or even Shisha as the word associated to what we know and love. In some circles “the hubbly” or Hubbly-Bubbly will be what your host may call it as they hand you the hose.

While hookah has undergone a facelift in virtually every corner of the world it has been brought to, in this epicenter, the tradition and designs have stayed true to what the locals have known for centuries. The focus on sturdiness and longevity coupled with resistance to flashy, un-needed design elements has cemented its place in the market and is what the pipes are known for today. Hand-engraved markings, casted brass, and stainless steel are all hallmarks of what you may find on a pipe from this area. Moreover, flavors rooted in tradition find themselves being packed in these pipes and are synonymous with the old-school charm. Double apple, mint, grape, strawberry, and melon are amongst just a few of the quintessential tastes you will find inside a shisha in these parts. These traditional flavors walked so the intricate, modern flavors we have today could run.    

Kalyan/Kalian/Kal’yan – Russia

Although shisha has steadily progressed and been innovated throughout the world, the integration to the culture and light-speed evolution in the last decade alone on Russian soil has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Referred to as Kalyan in these parts, this industrial revolution of the hookah is ever-changing and with it, the world marketplace can hardly keep up or guess where it will venture next.

Some hallmarks of Russian design and influence are surgical grade stainless steel, magnetic ports, near-silent diffusers, and heavy, high-quality parts that will last the test of time. Outside of the pipes themselves, there is a fascination with traditional style bowls and heat management device (HMD) combos that are viewed as must-haves for proper sessions with the tobacco of this region which is an experience all its own. However, it should be noted that while every region takes pride in its hookah practices, the master level of knowledge coming from these parts is astounding and something to behold when using a pipe from this area.     -----------------------------     At the end of the day, call this past time what you will but always remember its significance on the world and the culture it has created. Whether you’re enjoying it inside a café deep in the bazaar along with strong tea, on the beach with close friends, or in the midst of a hookah battle where your mind and assumptions on what is possible with hookah are blown, every puff is solidifying this centuries-old culture in the modern age.

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