Last Updated on November 8, 2021 by Marie Kathleen
From the mountains of Afghanistan to your distillate syringe, hashish has come a long way since its early beginnings.
In the city of Peshawar, capital of the North-west Frontier Province in Pakistan, hashish is as common as bread and tea. It hangs in giant lumps in shop windows. You can smell its sweet, astringent aroma mixed with the scent of woodsmoke, cooking meat, spices, gunpowder, and tea as you walk in the bazaars. Flinty-eyed Pashtun men, clad in beige shalwar chemise of woven cotton, and wearing the traditional flat-topped doti hats, smoke it in hazy cafes over glasses of intensely strong coffee, their AK-47s resting beside them.
One of the greatest wonders of travel is visiting places such as Peshawar, where you can still see, feel, taste and smell the world as it used to be, unadorned by Western influences and morals, and where the modest use of drugs are just a part of everyday life.
On the Road
For travellers, hashish once formed an integral part of this rich experience of West Asian travel. Since the 1960s, travellers have wandered the cities and plains of the Indian subcontinent, seeking out places to imbibe the extracted resin of the cannabis plants that grew in native abundance in the mountain valleys guarded by the world’s highest peaks.
But long before the hippy trails brought travellers in double-decker buses to Kabul, Kashmir and Kathmandu, hashish played an important role in the social fabric of the east.
Out of India
The word hashish comes from an Arabic word, ḥašīš, meaning “pressed cannabis.” It was introduced into the Middle East from Afghanistan during the 15th century by Mongol raiders, who carried the drug in the form of charas, small balls of cannabis resin, with them on their numerous invasions into the subcontinent.
For centuries, charas have been made by rubbing fresh cannabis leaves between the hands of labourers known as chara-wallahs. In the warm, sultry valleys of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram Mountains and the Himalayas, the semi-liquid resin sticks to the chara-wallah’s hands. When a thick layer has built up on their skin, it is scraped off with a flat wooden spatula and rolled into balls. And thus, the hashish chara is created.
Hashish as we Know it
The first known written use of the word “hashish” was employed to describe a sect of 12th-century mercenaries that were known as “the sect of the Assassins.” The word assassin that we use today, is a corruption of hashishin, which is Arabic for “hashish-smokers.” The assassins used hashish to stun their unsuspecting victims and to embolden themselves for the task of dispatching them.
The smoking of hashish, however, was not how the drug was originally consumed. Hashish had always been consumed as an edible in the Muslim world. It wasn’t until the smoking of tobacco was introduced in the 16th century that smoking hashish, which was mixed with tobacco, became common.
The Hash Club
Hashish was introduced into Europe during the 18th century by troops returning from Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt. Its psychoactive properties appealed to the wealthy, and it became the drug of choice for the European middle classes.
In the fashionable world of the Paris intelligentsia during the 1840s, the Club des Hashischins (the “Club of the Hashish-Eaters”) was a collective of writers and artists who were dedicated to experimenting with drugs, especially hashish.
Some of the greatest French writers of modern times were members of the Club des Hashischins, including Alexandre Dumas (author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers), and Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Head Full of Zombie
During the sixties and seventies, smoking hash has was an integral part of the traveller experience. Hippy travellers backpacked across Asia in search of the best hash experiences. From the markets of Kabul, and Dal Lake in Kashmir, to Freak Street in Kathmandu and the Burning Ghats of Varanasi, hashish went along with tie-dyed clothes, sandals and long hair.
Coming to the Americas
As the hippies drifted back to North America, trailing their bongo drums, patchouli incense and beads, they congregated in places such as the deepest recesses of inner-city San Francisco. These hash aficionados created an entire culture of adventure, mystique and fascination around the use and pleasures of smoking hash.
Indeed, the use of hashish among the hippy fraternity during the era of Free Love and Flower Power was so ubiquitous, that the area of San Francisco where they congregated, the Haight-Ashbury, became known as “The Hashbury.”
These days, raw hashish has been largely (although not completely) replaced by cannabis extracts: substances that concentrate the plant’s active ingredients into small, highly-accurate doses. Although it is still possible to buy charas, the science of extracting and concentrating the good oils found in cannabis has created an entirely new range of cannabis products.
A Long Tradition in Your Distillate Syringe
The concentrate in your distillate syringe is the end result of hashish’s long and fascinating history. And who knows where the journey will lead next.
But even in these strange times, when travel is restricted, and the memories of smoking hash out in the wide and wild world are just a hazy memory, if you take a little hit of some concentrate, you can still conjure up those images of life on the road in Asia.
In Nepali cafes, groups of tourists still gather to drink hash lassis: fresh yogurt laced with hash. In the flophouses of Lahore, and the houseboats of Kashmir, the sweet smell of burning hash still wafts across the lilly-strewn waters of Dal Lake.
Beside the River Ganges, hashish is still smoked in chilims by Hindu holy men, who will sell you a puff for a Rupee or two. I have seen them. I have sat beside them as they stare out across the holy river, their bodies smeared with ochre and Tumeric, the smoke from their fires of aromatic sandalwood drifting up to mingle with that of the funeral pyres.
Travel is an escape. And even though it may not be possible right now to journey to the wondrous lands of West Asia, the contents of your distillate syringe can, at least, conjure up a little of the mystique and history of hashish.
Let Matrix Extracts Show You the Way
If you would like to sample the many different extracts sold these days in the form of distillate syringes, check out the range of products sold by Matrix Extracts.
They are passionate about ensuring that you too, can be a part of the long and inspiring journey of hashish, a journey that has brought it from the mountains of the Hindu Kush to the contents of your distillate syringe. Happy Travels!