Life in Turkey


The Turkish water pipe Nargile! (Tips on Smoking and Buying)

In Turkey the shisha (water pipe) is called Nargile

It is one of the last remaining symbols of the ancient Ottoman culture in Turkey.

Thanks to the shisha lounges, it has also become a type of cult activity in Germany.

In Turkey, you’ll find shops on every street corner in the tourist resorts inviting foreigners to smoke the nargile.

Please don’t call them shisha.

The salespeople know what you mean by that. Nevertheless, they enjoy hearing you ask for it by its real name.

When making your selection, you should pay a little attention to the quality of the Shisha / Nargile.

Local shops tend to use better tobacco, and care is taken in maintaining and cleaning the nargile.

In general, the Turks are more familiar with the quality.  So look for a lounge where a lot of Turks have come to sit and smoke.

The nargile (water pipe) in Turkey

As in Germany, you can have your Nargile filled with a wide variety of tobacco flavours. From melon to strawberry flavour to chocolate, practically anything is possible.

Your choice of tobacco determines the taste and intensity of the smoke. You don’t have to worry about smoke billowing out of the nargile. It is well filtered through the water. I am not a smoker myself. Still, I can take a deep drag on the Nargile without having to cough afterwards.

Melon or apple tobacco, for example, is a milder flavour.

Flavoured hookah tobacco is stronger.

The moisture content of the tobacco is decisive for developing the smoke. You can increase its effect with molasses (humectants).

As a passionate Nargile (Shisha) smoker you should definitely try the tobacco used in Turkey. In Germany, water pipe tobacco is sold with a maximum moisture content of 5% for legal reasons. This hinders the development of smoke. You’ll need more than 20%  for a lot of good smoke to develop. In Turkey, good quality tobacco rarely has a moisture content below 30% .

In Germany, molasses is therefore mixed into tobacco before smoking to increase the degree of moisture, which affects the taste.

The molasses consists  of natural sugar cane syrup. This gives the nargile smoke a sweet taste. There’s a good proportion of sugar alcohol in the molasses. It keeps the tobacco moist and, together with the syrup, ensures better smoke development.

There is no moisture problem in tobacco in Turkey. It is made with a higher degree of moisture from the start. This eliminates the problem of having to mix tobacco and molasses.

So don’t be surprised if a Nargile is brought to you with a higher humidity than is common in Germany. This is perfectly normal and it is as it should be.

You can order molasses in the same flavour as the tobacco. Flavours include apple, melon, cherry, chocolate, etc. It is best to buy the molasses and tobacco from the same manufacturer. As a result, the taste will be pretty much the same.

Most tobacco packs contain 50 grams, for which 10 millilitres of molasses is sufficient. Molasses is sold in pack sizes of 100 millilitres. So one is enough for a couple of tobacco packs.

The molasses is drizzled over the tobacco. It will then act in a closed vessel for a few hours.

This is how you properly smoke the nargile

If you are in Istanbul, the Erenler Nargile next to the Grand Bazaar one of the best places to smoke a Nargile. You can also find shops in any other tourist town or small village where you can smoke a Nargile. Just pay a little attention to your surroundings. The classic shops have a more traditional interior.

In Alanya, for example, you’ll find the Tosmur where there is a combination of a Play-Station game store and a Nargile Bar. The tobacco is OK, but the real Nargile feeling is missing. This requires comfortable cushions and good Turkish tea.

In Turkey, there is traditionally no aluminium foil between the tobacco and the charcoal. Most distributors in the tourist countries put a slide in between. The Nargile tastes a little milder and there is no need for a piece of foil to be placed in between. So if there is none, you will get more of the customary Nargile experience like it’s done in Turkey.

A hookah consists of four parts

Glass body (Gövde): This is the “water bottle” into which the smoke is introduced. It rises through the water and from there is guided through a hose which drifts up to the mouthpiece.

These containers are mostly made of glass. Most often they are decorated with floral designs. Higher quality products are made of porcelain or crystal. The most expensive variants are decorated with gold or silver.

Column (Lüe): At the top of the column is the crown. Tobacco and coal are placed on top. There are basically three different options for doing this.

In Germany, the first thing to do is to put tobacco on the crown. Between the coal and the tobacco is an aluminium foil in which a few holes are poked. This allows the air to flow better.

In Turkey, the aluminium foil is traditionally not used.

You can also put a small metal sieve between the coal and the tobacco. It protects the tobacco and reduces the heat combustion procedure, slowing the process down a bit. This makes the taste milder and you can smoke the nargile for longer due to the slower burning rate.

Hose (Marpuc): You suck in the smoke through the hose. Good manufacturers make it out of real leather.

Mouthpiece (Agizlik): The mouthpiece is at the end of the hose. Disposable, hygienic plastic mouthpieces are used in public nargile bars.

Nargile as a souvenir from Turkey

In Turkey you will find opportunities to buy a Nargile on every other street corner. After all, they are among the most popular souvenirs.

If you are going to buy one, try to find a real Turkish Nargile. The water pipes at the stands in the bazaars are disqualified, especially if you see the label: “Made in Taiwan” or something similar.

As always, you should bargain in the tourist shops and everywhere else in Turkey. You can generally negotiate a list price of 100 euros down to 50 to 70 euros without any problem.

Well-known manufacturers in Turkey are:

Elmas Nargile: You will receive the water pipes together with a leather hose, wind protection, head and pliers. The quality and workmanship are reflected in the price. They cost a little more than your average nargile.

El Nefes: This is considered the middle class Nargile with a decent workmanship and an acceptable price-performance ratio.

Tek Demir: A good Nargile from Tek Demir costs between 80 and 100 euros. A leather hose, windshield, head and pliers are included in the purchase price. Due to the rather low price, you’ll have to accept a few minor flaws in the workmanship.

Buying a Nargile

The easiest way to find a good Nargile is through Amazon.

Otherwise you can have a look at the offers in Turkish shops. The quality is very different. You want to buy a nargile and not a shisha! There are a few minor differences in the construction. A Nargile Made in Taiwan is quite simply a standard product with no rough edges. (Mostly with a plastic container and a fake leather tube.)

Find the nearest store in your area or order online from a good manufacturer. This way, you will be satisfied with your water pipe for the next few years.

The German-Turkish manufacturer Nargilem has the largest market share and has the best reputation in Germany. The company produces its Nargile with a simple and modern design. Traditional decorations that are commonly seen in Turkey are not used.

Workmanship is good and the product reviews are okay. The Nargilem Nargile is aimed  at regular hookah smokers. You can check out the price range for Nargilem here.

In summary

The nargile is a symbol of Turkish culture. It is just as much a part of the country and its people as many other small objects of everyday use. For example, do you know about the Nazar amulet?

If you want to buy a real Nargile, pay close attention to the quality. Don’t buy one at the first booth you find at the bazaar or just any store. I have already described the companies that are well-known in Turkey. They produce the well-known and loved traditional style nargile.

Also remember to make the tobacco as “real” as possible. Get molasses for this to get the full smoke effect, or take some tobacco from Turkey with you. Unfortunately, you cannot store it forever. This is due to its greatest advantage: the high humidity. At the same time, it ensures a shorter shelf life.

Reader’s question: Do you have your own Nargile at home?