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Enhancement of Tobacco

From Tömbeki to Nakhla

In todays hookahs, people are mostly smoking flavoured fruit tobacco.
But that hasn't always been like that: The initial form of hookah tobacco was Tömbeki, consisting of the entire leaf. It wasn't as moist as the tobacco today, because it was moistured only by the morning dew. The tobacco was layed down on the ground over the night. so it was damp in the morning. A good smoking experience depended on the right degree of humidity of the tobacco leaves. The used tobacco mainly grew in steppe and was quite spicy.


The tobacco, the way it is used today, emerged only in the 19th century in Egypt.

Tobacco was a rare good, that simple farmers and workers couldn't afford to buy. But since they also wanted to have the luxury, that the rich people had, they were looking for a way to create as much smoke as possible with as little tobacco as possible.
To do so, they were moisturing the tobacco with a fluid, similar to honey - very much like the molasses of today. This kind of tobacco finaly was industrially manufactured in 1917 the first time, by an egypt manufacturer called "Nakhla". A tobacco with the name "Nakhla Zaghoul" is based on a traditional Egyptian recipe and is still available.

Flavoured tobacco - just a random invention?

Later on, they startet to add flavours to the fluids to make them taste like fruits and other things. The classical Tömbeki nowadays is hard to find, only with old nomad people or in traditional coffee houses, although even there, the modern flavoured hookah tobacco takes over more and more. According to a legend, the flavoured tobacco has been invented by accident: An Egypt was sitting down for dinner and had a dessert, which was a little cake with a sirup filling. When he bit it, the sirup spilled and fell on to the coal of the burning hookah beside him. The taste, that he experienced afterwards, surprised and convinced him so much, that from that day on, he aromatized his tobacco with sirup on purpose.

This text is a free translated extract from the book "Die Wasser - Tradition und Jugendkultur" ("The Waterpipe - Tradition and Youth Culture") by Felix B.



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