Water pipes

Among all smoking pipes the water pipe is a special one. The use of a bottle filled with liquid to cool and purify the smoke is a remarkable discovery, used in regions with high summer temperatures such as the Middle East. The system is rather simple. The pipe bowl has a stem that ends in the water reservoir. Above the water level a second stem leads to the smoking tube. When drawing on the mouthpiece, a vacuum is created in the bottle and fresh smoke comes from the bowl through the water.

Water pipes are known from Europe as well as Africa and Asia. The European examples are inspired on Turkish-Egyptian originals. The reservoir is usually made of glass, often coloured and decorated with glass-on-glass paintings in bright enamel colours. From the middle of the nineteenth century thousands of these pipes came from Vienna to West-Europe. Often only the bottles survived.

In Turkey the water pipe can be just functional or extremely elaborate. For the water container glass is most common. When travelling to the east the water pipe is more exotic as well as more simple. As water container all kinds of objects can be uses, from a coconut to bronze or ceramic vases.

In Africa the water pipe has a design on its own. From Ethiopia an example is known having a water container from pig's-bladder. The Tabwa in Tanzania, and especially women, smoke a water pipe made from the calabash fruit.

In China the water pipe is worked out completely differently. The small metal water pipe is placed in a box and accompanied by a tobacco jar and all utensils for smoking: a needle, a brush and a pair of pincers. The metal is normally pakton, the Chinese silver with a high nickel alloy, sometimes embellished with email cloisonné or sharkskin. Rarely they are made in silver.

Luxurious is a water pipe made from red copper with silver inlays. The cylindrical shape refers to the bamboo counterparts that are quite general among the poor smokers, but rarely survive.

Another variety is a porcelain jar fitted as a water pipe. At present these pipes are produced for tourists in high quantities.

pear shaped bottle of a water pipe in transparent glass with red and painting in enamel colours, Bohemian, Germany, 1860-1900
water pipe with a bottle in Bohemian glass and a pipe bowl of glazed ceramic, Vienna, Austria, 1890-1910
beautiful many sided bottle of a water pipe decorated with floral motifs, Bohemian, Germanry, 1850-1890
a pear shaped glass bottle with a white metal stem with dish on the top and a colourfull painted porcelain bowl, the flexible stem is extremely long, Egypt, 1880-1920
traditional Turkish water pipe with transparent glass bottle and tophane pipe bowl, Turkey, 1860-1910 a coco nut is used as water container, mounted in white metal and brass, the upgoing stem is in wood, Near-East, 1860-1900
as water container a blue painted porcelain vase is used, the brass mounting is locally made, note the long flexible stem, Persia, 1880-1920
a pipe bowl in alabast with an engraved geometrical pattern, Afganistan, 1880-1920
brass water pipe with detailed engraving, the metal bowl closes with a lid, India, 1940-1960 an earthenware bottle serves as water container, the stems are in bamboo, while the bowl is ordinary backed clay, Nourdistan, Afganistan, 1910-1950
brass container for a water pipe, Rajasthan, India, 1900-1940
cast bronze water pipe base on a flat round foot, the body multi sided, Rajasthan, India, 1880-1900
a water container in coconut mounted in brass with silver decorations, India, 1850-1900
large water pipe base in white metal with engravings, the decorated wooden stem contrasts with the simple pipe bowl, Near-East, 1880-1920
funnel shaped bowl of a water pipe with coloured enamel painting, Saudi-Arabië, 1840-1880
bowls of a water pipe, the left one in two parts, Luo, Kenya, 1980-1985
water pipe with a container of pig's-bladder and a black ceramic bowl, Ethiopia, 1950-1970
a calabash serves as water container, the pipe bowl of simple backed ceramic, South-Africa, 1980-1990
a calabash as water container, the stem of the fruit serves as mouth piece, the bowl of the pipe is in black backed clay, Msongosi, Waluguru, Tanzania, 1900-1940
simple but functional, a calabash with wooden stem and geometrical patterned pipe bowl, Baholoholo, Tanzania, 1900-1940
simple pipe bowls for the calabash water pipe, Tabwa, Congo, 1950-1980
the characteristic water pipe in pakton, the famous Chinese alloy of silver and nickel, China, 1880-1900 smoke set that consists of a water pipe, a tobacco jar and in between the tools for smoking, the metal decorated in email cloisonne, China, 1870-1910
unusual water pipe in silver with next to the water container a box for storing tobacco, China, 1880-1920
smoke set with water pipe and tobacco box covered with shark skin, China, 1850-1900
a Chinese porcelain jar mounted as a water pipe with on the top a wooden pipe bowl, the long upgoing stem is of bamboo, Vietnam, 1880-1920
water container of a piece of bamboo fitted with a yellow copper mounting, China, 1880-1910
beautiful water pipe shaped like a piece of bamboo but made in copper with an inlayed decoration in silver of flowers and animals, the inside is completely in silver, China, 1860-1900
beautiful water pipe with calabash container and ceramic bowl decorated with geometrical patterns, Hill tribes, Thailand, 1930-1960
All objects on this page are part of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum
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