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Smoking in Turkmenistan

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  #1  
Old January 27th, 2009, 05:38 PM
Hajo Flettner
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Default 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.
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  #2  
Old January 27th, 2009, 05:49 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Please do, I think it very interesting to know more about the narghiles they use
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  #3  
Old January 27th, 2009, 06:14 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

thats very interesting. thanks for posting!
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  #4  
Old January 27th, 2009, 08:15 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

I would love to try some of the tobacco that they use. It sounds awesome!
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  #5  
Old January 27th, 2009, 08:27 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

That sounds cool, its awesome that you researched it that good while you were there.
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  #6  
Old January 27th, 2009, 09:16 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

wow. sounds like you had an interesting time over there
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  #7  
Old January 27th, 2009, 10:40 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Tombac sounds very interesting. Much moreso than the fruity froo froo stuff being marketed to us americans :P
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  #8  
Old January 27th, 2009, 10:45 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan isn't Borat from there.
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  #9  
Old January 27th, 2009, 11:31 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

wow. i'm so impressed with the places you go and the things you learn. thanks for posting. please add more :]
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  #10  
Old January 28th, 2009, 01:31 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Hajo, thanks for posting your experiences however you need to take some pictures and post them my friend, that would add so much
John
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  #11  
Old January 28th, 2009, 01:33 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

hellas325

No, Borat is from Khazakistan ... LOL .. and he said that he hates Turkmenistan ... That guy is hilarious
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  #12  
Old January 28th, 2009, 02:11 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Borat is funny I knew it was one of the stan's at least.
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  #13  
Old January 28th, 2009, 02:49 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Thanks for the comments everyone. Basically my trips are usually pretty boring in that I spend most of my time talking to politicos, engineers and bankers about projects that usually never go anywhere. Still, I use what time I can set aside to learn a bit and see something more then a hotel room which is cool.

One thing I like about the narghiles there is that they have tubing diameters that literally are 50% bigger then your typical KM or Syrian rig so the draw is effortless and the smoke is massive. The locals smoke rigs that are far less decorative then what you can buy in Europa or the U.S. but much heavier. I also notice that they don't use stainless steel or copper but brass for basically everything.

Smoking is obviously quite a social thing in Turkmenistan from what I could tell just about every home has a narghile although cigarettes are very popular for some reason I can't get.

Although the language is belongs to the Turkic group it is not the same as Turkish and in fact I doubt that a Turk could understand what they say.

As to a camera I don't have one anymore and while I could get one for cheap I I doubt that I could use it much on my trips. The problem is that I spend a lot of time meeting people that as a result of the nature of business I can't show them meeting with me as it may jeopardize on going contracts. Also, a lot of times I am at someone's home and i'd feel weird taking pictures.

When you go to a poor country like Turkmenistan it's a very good idea to bring gifts. Outside of the hoses and finger coals I mentioned I always bring a couple of boxes of canned foods which I give to the local Mosque, Church or Temple as the case maybe. It helps out a few people and it's good business practice as well.

The tombac comes pre-mixed with bright and dark leaves packed in a dried brick with the major stems already removed which is a little different then one typically buys tombac.

As to getting the local tobacco well, that is tough. I brought a couple of packets with me but as far as I know they don't export.
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  #14  
Old January 28th, 2009, 03:07 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Wow, Interesting stuff, Thanks for sharing.
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  #15  
Old February 1st, 2009, 11:57 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

That is a great post you wrote! Thanks!
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  #16  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 12:59 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

WOW! that IS quite interesting. I'd love to go to countries with different hookah cultures. I'm glad you shared this with us man. Very interesting.
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  #17  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 10:49 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Great read, thx for posting. What line of work are you in Hajo?
-sport
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  #18  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 02:15 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Thanks for the comments all. One thing I forgot to mention is that the locals were absolutely fascinated by the notion that Westerns smoke narghiles. I also though it was interesting that they literally hadn't heard of any of the brands we smoke. They also were interested in hearing about America which surprised me. Lastly, I noted that some smokers in Türkmenbaşy liked to put coffee in the base which is something I haven't seen before.

Someone ask what I do and basically I have two jobs: metallurgy and naval architectural consultancy (which is a side line) and doing engineering sales support for food & drink processing facilities and same sorta thing for water treatment plants and such.

Next trip that I know of is to Birobiszhan in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast ( ייִדישע אווטאָנאָמע געגנט ) which is in the Russia Federation. No idea if they have any smoking culture there. By the way, anyone here know an expert in Yiddish? my firm looks like they need to hire a translator for that gig.

Last edited by Hajo Flettner; February 2nd, 2009 at 03:16 PM.
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  #19  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 02:19 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

In india people dont even use foil they put the coal on the tobacco, the older generation that is, the newer ones just smoke AF
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  #20  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 03:19 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

I've only been to India a couple of times and i've only been to Goa. The smokers there are a very diverse bunch and they take it very seriously. I didn't see anyone smoking AF but but man, do I wish someone would import all of the really killer stuff they have in India like Ahmed Jurak. That stuff blows all the fruity stuff away.
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  #21  
Old February 2nd, 2009, 03:48 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hajo Flettner View Post
I've only been to India a couple of times and i've only been to Goa. The smokers there are a very diverse bunch and they take it very seriously. I didn't see anyone smoking AF but but man, do I wish someone would import all of the really killer stuff they have in India like Ahmed Jurak. That stuff blows all the fruity stuff away.
LOL i had a family friend come over and smoked with me and goes wh s*"t is this, and it was a really nice bowl of AF Grape, he goes the stuff from india is so much better and he wil try hooking me up with it

If you go to the village area of india, u won't get people smoking anything apart from traditional stuff with no screen or foil.

But in the cities the collage lot all smoke AF etc fruity stuff
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  #22  
Old February 3rd, 2009, 12:37 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Hahaha, when I was in Goa I went to a shisha cafe and ask to smoke AF as that is what I was into then and the guy behind the counter said "you wanna see what smoking is all about?" and I figured the guy would have something perfectly boring but instead he busted out the Al Khass and Iwhen I tried it I thought "wow, the guys knows what he's talking about". The fruity stuff just can't compete. You Indian guys are lucky. All the really good stuff never gets exported
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  #23  
Old February 3rd, 2009, 02:47 AM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

Hellas, Turkmenistahn is bigger than Greece and my country together 40 times! I remember the National Geographic book of the World's Nations I bought for my children 25 years ago. They had a few pages on the Soviet Union and one photo of a man in Turkmenestahn driving a donkey and a cart.That is quite similar to photographing a New York city taxi cab and saying "This is America"...
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  #24  
Old February 5th, 2009, 01:40 PM
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Default Re: Smoking in Turkmenistan

ShishaBubly, do you speak Yiddish? It looks like i'll need someone that is fluent for a constultancy gig.

Anyway, you are right about Kurkmenistan being huge. In fact, it's so big that I don't think I got much of a feel for the country at all. Living in the Baltics i've come to appricaite just how complicated the local ethnoghraphy really is. In a country as big as Turkmenistan things muct be very complicated in deed!

What I find fasinating is how Islam is so totally different in Turkmenistan then what i've come to think of it as. The huge amount of what I presume are are pre-Islamic beleifs and a Catholic style Cult of Saints are extremely interesting to me. I would guess that excentrities I've noted are a bit like the vestages of European Paganism in Christiandom with it's hold outs from Nordic & Germanic culture (numerous elements of Christmas and Easter) and Mithraism ( Baptism and a vew other other bits) ren intrpreted for local consumption.

In my little corner of Europa we have a religion called Romuva which is the indiginiousHeathen faith and some folks here have mixed it Christianity producing a religion that is, from my perspective, exotic and hard to grasp.
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