Smoking Ghaylun

When you think of Iran, you are more likely to think of a conservative country far from common social activities of the west. Pubs, bars and clubs and the general nightlife of the west are of course a major no no in Iran. There are some similarities however and shisha, hooka, whatever your preference of name, is very popular in Iran.  For both men and women that is, throughout  many generations.

In Persian, shisha is referred to as ghaylun and the majority of places that offer this is in a hotel outside, which seems different from the west, where you would usually find shisha being smoked inside an overheated bar. In Iran, you are out in the open, sat on Persian rugs (of course) cross-legged all passing around a water pipe.

This is a common social occasion, much like the west, but in Iran it is very common amongst families too. With the kind of flavours that we can find such as, bubblegum, strawberry and grape, you can just be sat for hours smoking ghaylun. You can even enjoy it with a stunning view, depending on where you are smoking it. In some public places, a view of a fountain can frequently be found. Other times you can be smoking a ghaylun at a bogh, a garden house in the suburbs of a city. Frequently seen with people outside playing cards or on a cool summer’s evening too, whenever, wherever, whatever the occasion, a shisha pipe appears as a common addition to many gatherings and social events in Iran.

I was once at a cousin’s friend’s birthday party where there was a ghaylun.. They were all sat around this water pipe all waiting for their turn to smoke it. It’s common for ghalyun to be smoked at birthday parties, yes, but it was the view of all of these glamorous Iranian women, smoking this water pipe which stood out for me. Stood out in the sense of that it is not what you would might expect to see or think would happen in Iran. Women with perfect hair and a full face of make-up, stylish clothes and a shisha. There goes that old saying about what goes on behind closed doors.

Ghaylun also has a very different reputation to cigarette smoking in Iran I feel too. Ghalyun seems more the norm and more well-accepted in Iran, especially for women. The water pipe seems more like a very welcome addition to an Iranian social gathering, whereas smoking cigarettes is more generally uncommon as a social activity.

And this is something that intrigues me about Iran. Ghaylun is obviously not good for your health however, it is the social side of this bad habit which appears interesting. Family, friends, men, women from their young 20s to well over their 60s sharing and smoking this water pipe together. A group of people smoking cigarettes, not so much. Extraordinary indeed.

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