Cannabis Time Capsule, 1901: German tourist encounters Egyptian "hasheesh" den
Here's a great example of people trying to making cannabis sound foreign and scary through news reports, when the reality of the situation is much more benign -- just a few people getting stoned and enjoying a laugh.
This 1901 story, published in the Glenwood (Springs) Post, talks about a German doctor's trip to Cairo, where he was shown a hash den by his guide: a porter boy who could speak a spot of German.
From the way it's described, the hash den sounds more like a hangout or a club, although it was likely on the seedier end of the spectrum. The boy led the doctor down a "dark and dirty" alley towards the light pouring out of a distant, smoky doorway. Once there, the boy and the tourist shuffled past a bunch of dudes playing dominoes in a front room into a hazy back room.
The room was filled with more dudes sitting around a corner stove smoking bubblers and looking at Arabic inscriptions and posters of "European beauties" on the walls.
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"Here we were welcomed like old acquaintances," zee German wrote. "The aromatic odor and the smokers were in a very happy mood."
Sounds about right.
Before the German knew it, he was part of the communal process of smoking a bowl of hash -- which was quite the group effort. One guy handed him a clay pipe, another gave him a pinch of tobacco, while a third dude "bit off little pieces of brown hasheesh [sp] and laid them down on the tobacco."
After the German was set up, a fourth guy grabbed the bowl and put it in what sounds like a small hookah (called a narghile), setting a few coals from the fire on top of the packed bowl of hash to get things started.
"The pipe passed from mouth to mouth, each man taking a few whiffs and expelling the smoke from nose to mouth," he wrote. "All of the smokers talked and laughed incessantly. Most of them were young or middle-aged men."
But when it came his turn, our dour German friend passed on the puff-puff. Instead he ordered coffee -- the more socially acceptable buzz between the two substances even then -- and watched his newfound friends get ripped. Especially an old man the German hadn't noticed before:
The passage reads: "Suddenly an elderly man rose to his feet and stood staring at the floor, with a vacuous smile. He was a hasheesh wreck, an imbecile. 'He is a philosopher' said one of the others, and a general laugh followed."
An imbecile or a philosopher: You be the judge.
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