Saturday, 8 May 2010

Cigar bar and Hookah lounge on the Thames at The Rafayel'

Explorer Christopher Columbus is generally credited with the introduction of tobacco to Europe. Two of Columbus's crewmen during his 1492 journey, Rodrigo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, are said to have encountered tobacco for the first time on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas, when natives presented them with dry leaves that spread a peculiar fragrance. Tobacco was widely diffused among all of the islands of the Caribbean and therefore they again encountered it in Cuba, where Columbus and his men had settled. His sailors reported that the Cuban Indians smoked a primitive form of cigar, with twisted, dried tobacco leaves rolled in other leaves such as palm or plantain.

In due course, Spanish and other European sailors caught the habit, as did the Conquistadors, and smoking spread to Spain and Portugal and eventually France, most probably through Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, who gave his name to nicotine. Later, the habit spread to Italy and, after Sir Walter Raleigh's voyages to America, to Britain.

A hookah (Hindustani: हुक़्क़ा (Devanagari), حقّہ (Nastaleeq) huqqā)or waterpipe is a single or multi-stemmed (often glass-based)instrument for smoking tobacco in which the smoke is cooled and filtered by passing through water. Social smoking is done with a single or double hose, and sometimes even more numerous such as a triple or quadruple hose in the forms of parties or small get-togethers. When the smoker is finished, either the hose is placed back on the table signifying that it is available, or it is handed from one user to the next, folded back on itself so that the mouthpiece is not pointing at the recipient. It has been recorded that the Arabs are the biggest shisha smokers in the World and have the most shisha Cafes.

Originally from India,hookah has gained popularity, especially in the Middle East and is gaining popularity in North America , Europe, Australia and Brazil.In the Arab world, people smoke it as part of their culture and traditions.

Most cafés (Arabic: مقهىً, transliteration: maqhah, translation: coffee shop) in the Middle East offer shishas. Cafés are widespread and are amongst the chief social gathering places in the Arab world (akin to public houses in Britain). Some expatriate Britons arriving in the Middle East adopt shisha cafés to make up for the lack of pubs in the region, especially where prohibition is in place.

It is said that the Hookah was invented in India in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542 - 1605 AD). Following the European introduction of tobacco to India, Hakim Abul Fateh Gilani a descendant of Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani came from Baghdad to India who was later a physician in the court of Mughal raised concerns after smoking tobacco became popular among Indian noblemen, and subsequently envisaged a system which allowed smoke to be passed through water in order to be 'purified'. Gilani introduced the hookah after Asad Beg, then ambassador of Bijapur, encouraged Akbar to take up smoking. Following popularity among noblemen, this new device for smoking soon became a status symbol for the Indian aristocracy and gentry. In North India, it is a great tradition followed among Jats, Bishnois, Rajputs etc. However, the Hookah used there is not for enjoyment all the times but also for the purposes of status symbol and more precisely, for regular smoking as tobacco is used in it.

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