© Saira Bhatti

"Smoking a hookah is nothing like smoking a cigarette...cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run...when you smoke a hooka, you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company" ~Ismet Ertep (71-year-old pensioner from Turkey)

In the early part of the 17th century, Turks took to smoking with a passion. In 1633, outraged at the rapid spread of this new vice, Sultan Murad IV banned smoking on pain of death. But his prohibition merely drove smokers underground, and 14 years later officials conceded defeat and lifted it.

Nargiles soon became important status symbols. Offering one to a guest became an important sign of trust, and withholding it could be taken as a serious insult. In 1841 a diplomatic crisis broke out between France and the Ottoman Empire after the Sultan declined to offer the French Ambassador a chance to smoke with him.

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