Smoking in Turkmenistan
I got back from a business trip to Turkmenistan and I found the people there extremely hospitable and pleasant. One incredibly odd thing I noted is that they have 3 alphabets, Latin, Cyrillic and a variant on Arabic, although the later seems to be used mostly for religious documents. I spent all my time in and around the capital Ashgabat and a coastal city called Türkmenbaşy.
Religion seems very strange in that it is a mixture of Sufism, ancestral worship and animism. It seems that they have a Catholic like veneration of Saints ( most of which are Sufi shaykhs ) and some sort of clan based spirituality based on something called övlats which I never really figured out.
Anyway, I got the chance to learn a little bit about the tobacco culture there and it’s pretty interesting. They have a snuss like product called nas which is very popular and I tried it but can’t say I found it appealing as I don’t like smokeless tobacco.
I brought a bunch of finger coals and disposable hoses as I always do to hand out to local smokers since I’ve noticed that in a lot of places bulk coals and leather hoses are the norm. Doing so got a great deal of interest as did seeing someone like me as Turkmenistan is off the beaten path as far as tourists go.
I discovered that almost everyone that into narghiles basically smokes tombac although black style moassel is around it’s clearly not as popular. What really did surprise me is that fruit flavoured stuff by H-H, Nakhla and Al Waha is nowhere to be found and the younger locals all found it very fascinating although about half that tried out the stuff I brought concluded that the stuff they regularly smoked was better. I discovered that the floral type stuff was a big hit with the people that were open to newer styled moassel.
The local tombac is a mixture of bright flute cured leaves and a dark, fire cured leaf with a very spicy like taste. Often times a locally made syrup with a cardamon/clove/anise like flavour is mixed with cream and hot tea and drank while smoking. The same syrup is put into the base occasionally and it adds a very nice if subtle flavour to the tombac. Sometimes the syrup is mixed in with the black moassel resulting in a taste which is sort of like old style AF Ark Sous mixed with English pipe tobacco. I really loved that particular combination of flavours and while I may be able to recreate it with some effort it was quite mild and pleasant.
Another thing I noticed is that no one used foil but instead very thin brass or copper screens where what was used almost always with the local moassel.
Quite intriguing as well was that a great many seemingly devote Sunnis smoke frequently and even have koranic quotes and the saying of various “saints” (I don’t know the actual term) inscribed on there narghiles. Needless to say, this is a practice that I have never encountered before and one that strikes me as very strange.
The local narghiles are extremely heavy and simple featuring rolled and welded brass with little decoration out side etching and script on the mainsteam. The hoses are very wide and made of sown leather while the tips are very wide and made of wood or some sort of polished stone although the latter is fairly rare. The bases are made mostly out of brass or copper with only a small band of glass to help determine the fill line.
I'll put up more info if the interest is here when I get some time.