Nargileh - Hookah, Istanbul
This is an old looking teahouse where you also get the chance to try out a nargileh (water smoking pipe which bubbles when you suck air out of it). There are a few establishments inside but the one to head for is on you immediate left as you enter as this is the most attractive with lots of pretty lights and seems to be where the majority of tourists hang out. I sat down and had a glass of apple tea next to a guy from Iran (probably the first time that happened!) who didn't speak any English and started showing me photos and film clips on his mobile. Anyway, this is a great place to come in the evening especially when it's cold outside and do what the locals do. The water pipes aren't cheap, though, at 12TL a pop.
Divan Yolu, just east of the Beyazit tram station.
You almost have to do this on a visit to Istanbul if you haven't done it before. I got an apple flavored tobacco that tasted really good. I'm not a smoker but I smoked it for over an hour and it was actually pretty smooth. You do get lightheaded if you do it too fast. I loved smoking this while drinking tea and listening to Turkish music.
Elma = apple
Nane = mint
Sheftali = peach
These are the most common, although some trendier cafes offer all manner of flavours, including vishne (sour cherry), bal (honey), manga (mango), and various concoctions using milk instead of water (coconut is the usual suspect). Take my advice, and stick to the common ones...mint is my favourite, with apple a close second.
Every so often, waiters come round with a metal container full of hot coals, and will replace your old ones. This means you can smoke nargile for over an hour quite easily. If your coals finish and nobody comes to the rescue, a handy phrase is "atesh, lutfen" (literally "fire, please").
Where to try nargile? Well, almost anywhere in Istanbul nowadays. Many places in sultanahmet have nargile, although prices may be high in the touristy places. Near to Suleymaniye Camii, look for a doorway leading to an open-air cafe in a courtyard below, which is a very pleasant place to spend an hour or so with a pipe. Taksim's backstreets are full of cafes which offer nargile. Try Kafeka on the street running behind the Istiklal branch of McDonalds, or the cafe of the Atlas Sinema, roughly about halfay down Istiklal Caddesi. The Galata bridge also has some great nargile places, although prices are a little higher here.
The best place in all Istanbul for atmosphere is Tophane. From Taksim square, take Siraselviler Caddesi to the end, cross over the busy main road to the impressive mosque. Between that mosque and another equally impressive one, there is a road full of nargile places, ranging from ultra trendy with cushions on which to lounge, to more traditional ones with tables, chairs and backgammon. Any time of day is busy in Tophane, but evening is the time to go. It is also on the tramline from Eminonu and Sultanahmet, so an easy and relaxing night out for anyone staying over there.
In Taksim and other central areas, a nargile costs around 4 or 5YTL. The trendier the cafe, the higher the prices.
As visitors to my other pages on the Middle East may already know, I am rather partial to a nargile from time to time! For those not in the know, what is nargile? Well, maybe you know it as chicha, ma'ada or hubble-bubble, or maybe just plain old water pipe, nargile is one of those unusual-looking things you see men (and in many places, women) puffing huge clouds of smoke from.
A few myths...Nargile uses cannabis: It does NOT! Nargile, in proper hands, is prepared using either plain tobacco (known as sade in Turkish) or tobacco which has been soaked in fruit flavoured water.
Nargile is not addictive: Umm, have to disagree. If there is nicotine, there will be addiction. Some say that because the water acts as a filter, the smoke is purer and less harmful. I've also heard that the fruit-flavoured tobaccos are less harmful and less addictive than the plain tobacco, which may well be true. However, if you indulge in an occasional apple or mint nargile during your holiday, you won't suddenly become a chain smoker.
You should always inhale the smoke: Again, no...you can inhale it if you like, but non-smokers can just breathe the smoke into their mouth and blow it straight out again without letting the smoke enter the lungs...you'll still be able to taste the flavour and enjoy the smell.
Nargile is for old men: Yes, it is for old men, but also for old women, young men, young women and anyone else in between! It has become quite trendy in recent years, and you'll find cafes all over Istanbul where locals and tourists of all shapes and sizes puff happily away on a nargile, pleasant smelling smoke filling the air to the sound of bubbling water.
How does a nargile work? I'm no scientist, but I'll attempt an explanation. The clay top contains the tobacco, which is covered with tinfoil. Charcoal is burned on top, sending smoke down into the glass container at the bottom. When you suck on the pipe, the smoke bubbles through the water before reaching your mouth.
It's a huge pipe when you can put uncountable varyties of tobacco: mint, chocolate, strawberry, cherry, banana, peach, etc. It doesn't cointain any physicotropical substances so, don't worrry about it.
But try to avoid the masses of tourist that do that, next to Buhara Hotel (see my accomodation page) there's an small and peaceful tea saloon when you can enjoy it with the magnific treat of their owners and workers, I'm sorry but I don't remember the name of the place.
You can find as well some places where you can see a show as well, like for example “derviches” dancing. It is not real, and it’s done for the tourists to have a nice time, but it’s nice to see it. This photograph is from the Mesala cafe (near the blue mosque, in a small baazar).
A life's dream comes true! One hour spent in a nice, quiet cafe with a lot of ambience, sipping turkish coffee and smoking nargileh. The place is very cosy and nicely decorated with old film posters and oriental lamps hanging from the ceiling. The waiter, Ersoy, is very friendly and accommodating. I can still smell the aroma of coffee and of the nargileh blend!
Ahhh, the small pleasures of life!
The address is:
it's a small alley off the pedestrian street connecting Taksim with Tunel in the Beyoglu area (Peran)
Available in most coffee shops this is one of those things I can't get enough. Smoking pipes is a healthy option or substitute to cigarrettes. For those of you who are skeptical, yes it's safe and has no kind of nicotine. Pure air with a wide selection of frutty flavours. The most popular: Apple.
I think about 85% percent of people in Turkey smoke, at least in public. In the privacy of their own homes, the percentages probably shoot to somewhere near 98%
An alternative to cigarettes or the famous Meerschaum pipes, is the nargile (or hookah). Traditionally used in Ottoman times with weed, it is now used for "safe" tobacco (percentages once again changing in the privacy of homes...)
Many nargile cafes can be found, and nargiles are often also offered in tea shops. Tobacco flavors include the most popular apple, to cherry, cappacino, mint, etc.
The tobacco content is fairly light, which makes for an evening of "good, clean fun" -- even for those not accustomed to smoking.
The Turks love how tourists get off on it, and if you really appear to be enjoying it, you may even get dressed up in Ottoman clothes for a snazzy snapshot.
The nargile, or waterpipes, were a real eye-opener for me. For one, you can smoke fruit-flavoured tobacco, and secondly, it's pretty mild since it's been water filtered.
Lazy afternoons at a little cafe with turkish coffee and some apple tobacco is a very relaxing time.
Nargile (water pipes) are interesting instruments for smoking. The main idea is that the smoke is filtered through water (sometimes other liquids like milk or fruit juice)
A nargile can be smoked up to hours at a time. Since it takes up so much time it is no longer as popular as it used to be. Today, people still go to smoke nargiles which recently comes in different flavours. It is usually accompanied with fruit or herbal teas and a game of backgammon ("tavla")
Many nargile "cafe" s can be found at Tophane. There are also some places for younger smokers where they can listen to rock, metal and pop.
Smoking water pipes, or nargileh, is a great Turkish pastime. Both men and women can be found in nargileh joints, puffing away at bubbling water pipes, drinking apple tea, and playing endless games of backgammon. This is an activity to do with a group of friends, and you can sit and gab for hours doing it. On a sunny weekend afternoon, or any night of the week until all hours, you can find hundreds of people gathered at the outdoor nargileh cafes in the Amerikan Pazar. This complex is located in the shadow of Nusretiye Camii, just off Necatibey Cad (the road to Dolmabahce Palace). Head over with your friends for a truly Turkish experience.