Maybe you have heard of Hookah and have been wanting to try it out. Or maybe this is a totally unfamiliar word, and you are wondering why it is showing up on a restaurant website! The history of hookah stretches back hundreds of years and is found around the world under different names. We will explore what exactly hookah is, where it came from and how it is still enjoyed today. Hookah is popular in many countries and continues to grow in popularity in the United States. At Maggio’s Italiano restaurant we continue the rich tradition of hookah with our hookah bar. Our Alexandria location is the perfect place to try hookah, and our adjacent restaurant offers great food selections!

Okay, so what exactly is a hookah? A hookah is an instrument used for smoking (usually flavored) tobacco, where the smoke is passed through a water basin before inhalation. Hookahs can have a variety of configurations, but they all need a bowl to hold the coal and tobacco. This bowl is usually made out of clay, marble or glass. Over the bowl is a screen upon which lit coals are placed, and they heat the tobacco. A long, slender hose is used to draw the smoke and cool it before inhalation. Today, hoses are usually vinyl, which allows for easy cleaning. The smoke passes through the water chamber where it is vaporized. The tobacco used in hookahs is different from your traditional cigarette or cigar tobacco. It is called shisha, and it is a mixture of tobacco and treacle, honey or sugar and distilled water with fruit flavors. It is light and fruity and at Maggio’s flavors range from cherry to guava to rose.

The origins of hookah seem to be in India, in the court of Akbar the Great or in Persia. Early evidence of smoking from a coconut shell in India seems to have developed over the years into the form we see today. However, it was in Turkey where the design and popularity really took off. Throughout the Middle East, smoking waterpipes is part of culture and tradition, and hookahs can have multiple hoses that add to the communal nature of hookah. Hookah is found around the world under many different names, including nargile, shisha, ghalyan and water pipe. Traditional hookahs often used copper or brass, but manufacturers increasingly use stainless steel or aluminum. These materials, along with silicone rubber hoses, make modern hookahs more durable, eliminate odors while smoking and allow for easier cleaning.

Hookah lounges in the United States seem to have started as coffee and tea houses in the 1960s and 1970s. They are becoming more widespread as people appreciate the community and relaxation they foster. Smoking hookah is a very social experience, and is steeped in deep tradition. There are loose rules associated with hookah smoking, but the main point of hookah is to foster community, so no worries if you don’t know them! Hookah smoking in a group goes in a clockwise rotation, and when you are passing it to someone always angle the end of the hose with the mouthpiece away from the person. Avoid blowing smoke in another person’s face, as this is always considered impolite. If you are smoking from a multi-hosed hookah, let the first person finish smoking before you begin. These are just a few loose rules to observe when smoking hookah. The main point of hookah is to have a fun, relaxing time with friends!

At Maggio’s Italiano in Alexandria, you can try hookah for yourself! Our hookah bar is designed to have a community feel, and we offer a large assortment of flavors. Our restaurant has great Mediterranean and Italian food, but our hookah bar is where you can relax and unwind with friends. If you have been interested in seeing what the tradition of hookah is all about, our hookah lounge in Alexandria is where you should go! See why hookah has been popular in so many cultures, and has endured through the centuries as a community activity that brings people together. Check out our hookah menu to see all the flavors we offer, and to inspire your next hookah excursion! Find out why hookah has endured as a fun, social activity over so many centuries and across so many cultures.