Two Ottoman smoking pipes from Egypt rediscovered at the Louvre Museum

Tobacco consumption in the Ottoman Empire began in the early 17th century. The plant was imported by European sailors into the empire through Istanbul and Cairo (De Vincenz, 2016, p. 118). Initially banned by several decrees (François et al., 2012, p. 487), consumption and production were finally accepted in the mid-17th century. Throughout the Empire, everyone smoked: men and women, rich and poor, urban and rural, but only men could meet in cafés to smoke. By the 19th century, tobacco production and consumption had become a major source of revenue for the Empire. For archaeologists, the materiality of this industry can be found in tobacco pipes and narghiles. The latter are rare in archaeological contexts, whereas pipes can be found in their hundreds in Ottoman villages.

Ottoman pipes consisted of three distinct parts. The first was the bowl that held the tobacco. It could be made of clay, soft stone or metal. Next was the stem made of jasmine or cherry wood. It could be up to 2m long for the elite, but was normally 20cm long. Then there was the mouth piece, made of amber or semi-precious stone. The need for such a device was due to the nature of the tobacco, which was very strong and had to be cooled by the pipes so as not to injure the smokers.

State of the art

The study of Ottoman pipes, or chibouk (Ottoman Turkish: çubuk), has developed considerably over the past ten years. However, this mainly concerns the Levant and Turkey, while other regions are very little studied. This is particularly true of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, so there is a need to publish the data available for these regions. In this article, we will discuss two Egyptian pipes that have been rediscovered in the Louvre Museum. The fact that few pipes discovered in Egypt have been published prompted us to present these two objects.

Knowledge of Egyptian pipe production and clusters of consumption is very patchy. The very first publication showing pipes in detail is in the 1809 Description de l’Égypte, Tome II. Plate II of État Moderne shows pipes from Egypt, probably from Asyut, which are very similar to those made in Tophane, Istanbul. This was a major centre for imperial pipe production, very active in the second half of the 19th century, and their pipes are made of a very fine red clay with delicate decorations. The pipes produced in Asyut were either made in the imperial workshops set up there or were copies made elsewhere based on moulds. The first publication of pipes in an archaeological context was by St John Simpson in 1991, when he presented a pipe from the Siwa Oasis. Then Stéphane Pradines published twenty chibouk from a pipe workshop in Cairo, in use between 1730 and 1780 (Pradines, 2004). Laurent Bavay presented twenty-one pipes from the reused Theban Tomb 29 at Cheikh Abed el-Gourna (Bavay, 2010), and Benjamin Saidel published four pipes from the Sinai (Saidel, 2014). Finally, Esraa Ahmed Mohamed Ellabban published an article on twelve pipes from the Ismailia Museum stores (Ellabban, 2021), while in May 2023, during a conference at the Institut Français de l’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO), Julie Marchand presented a box containing pipes produced at Asyut and rediscovered at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels. To summarise, we have three types of documentation, from historical contexts, archaeological contexts and museum contexts.

Fig.01. Pipes from Egypt (Description de l’Egypte, Tome II, l’État Moderne, Pl. II)

The two pipes

According to the Louvre Museum, these two pipes are from the Fustat excavations carried out by Ali Bey Bahgat in the early 20th century. Fustat was Egypt’s first Muslim capital (Bahgat Bey, 1923, p. 59). The archaeologist excavated three residential buildings and a potter’s workshop from the 14th century. In his reports, he makes no mention of pipes (Bahgat Bey 1914 and 1923), nor of any Ottoman remains. Presumably, the pipes were collected as surface finds from the site, before being donated by the Arab Museum of Egypt (today the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo) to the Louvre Museum in 1928, although we do not really know why.

OA 7956/93 – Complete profile. Biconical shank end. Globular and straight furnace, decorated with roulette of small lines and circular stamps.

Fabric: fine brown clay with pinkish red core, greyish brown slip. Dimensions: H. 4.58cm; L. 5.16cm; DS. 0.99cm; DF. 2.14cm.

OA 7956/94 – Complete profile. Straight shank end. Faceted bulge in straight furnace.

Fabric: Coarse greyish brown clay.

Dimensions: H. 4.04cm; L. 4.56cm; DS. 1.17cm; DF. 2.56cm.

Fig. 02. OA 7956-93 and OA 7956-94 (Nolwenn Guedeau)

Fig. 03. Drawings of OA 7956-93 and OA 7956-94 (Nolwenn Guedeau)

The pipes presented here are far from the finesse of the Asyut workshops and are of different quality from one another. The first, OA 7956/93, is made of a fine grey clay with a pinkish centre and a simple shape. Although the decorations are rather clumsy, they are still unique examples within the empire. The second, OA 7956/94, is coarse, with a very sandy clay and no surface treatment. Finger and tool marks are still visible. When the hole was drilled to join the furnace to the shank end, the remaining clay was not removed, proving that the pipe was produced without much care. Although they were both found in Fustat, they appear to have come from different workshops. Pipe OA 7956/93 was made by a skilled craftsman using tools appropriate to his craft, whereas pipe OA 7956/94 is much simpler, probably produced in a hurry, perhaps by a craftsman not specialised in this specific craft, perhaps a potter.

Fig. 04. Inside of OA 7956/94 (Nolwenn Guedeau)

These two pipes bear no resemblance to any previously published pipes. They could therefore be local or regional productions. To find out more about Egyptian production, see Stéphane Pradines’ article on the pipe workshop discovered in the Cairo fortifications. This is the only pipe workshop to have been archaeologically excavated in Egypt. It was located in the Ayyubid city wall between Bāb al-Naṣr and the Citadel, in a tower near the Bāb al-Maḥrūq gate. The workshop was quite some way away from the other pipe-makers, who were based in the “Chouboukchiyy” district, i.e. the place where chibouk were produced (Bavay, 2020, p. 28). However, none of the pipes published by Pradines seem to have the same paste, shape and decoration as our two pipes. A similarity of shape can be seen between OA 7956/93 and Barq-514-50 (Pradines, 2004, p. 289). The faceted bead on OA 7956/94 is also found on Barq-514-56 (Pradines, 2004, p. 289). As far as the clay is concerned, the Cairo pipes of type B, which could correspond morphologically to our two pipes, have either a “yellow clay”, which does not correspond to either of our pipes, or a “pink clay” which could possibly correspond to OA 7956/93, but nothing is certain. It is therefore unlikely that the two Fustat pipes were produced in this Cairo workshop.


The fact that so few pipes have been published from Egypt makes it difficult to use consumption clusters as a technique for identifying workshops. The origin of these pipes remains unknown, as is the case for most of the other pipes published for this region, even if the analysis showed at least two different workshops. The possibility of associating production with a particular place is very rare. The workshop presented by Stéphane Pradines was the first to be published, and a second was discovered in 2023 by Cristina Tonghini at Tell Zeyd in northern Iraq (Tonghini, 2023, p. 229). The city of Kirkuk also had a workshop, proven by the presence of an Amal Kirkuk seal, produced in Kirkuk (Guedeau, 2019, p. 106). These were in addition to the two major imperial workshops at Tophane and Asyut. It is essential to publish more pipes to understand better the economy and trade of this industry, particularly for Egypt and North Africa.


Bahgat Bey, Ali. ‘Les Fouilles de Foustât. (Découverte d’un four de potier arabe datant du XIVe siècle)’. In Bulletin de l’institut égyptien, Tome 8, fascicule 1 (1914): 233–245.

Bahgat Bey, Ali. ‘Les fouilles d’Al Foustat’. In Syria, Tome 4, fascicule 1 (1923): 59–65.

Bavay, Laurent. ‘Fumer comme un Turc. Les pipes ottomanes provenant de la TT 29 à Cheikh Abd el-Gourna’. In Thèbes aux 101 portes: Mélanges à la mémoire de Roland Tefnin, by Eugène Warmenbol and Valérie Angenot, 25–46. Monumenta Aegyptica. Association Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth (2010).

Description de l’Égypte ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Égypte pendant l’expédition de l’Armée française, publié par les ordres de Sa Majesté l’Empereur Napoléon le Grand, État Moderne. Tome II. Imprimerie impériale (1809).

De Vincenz, Anna. ‘Chibouk smoking pipes – secrets and riddles of the ottoman past’. In Arise, walk through the land. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of his Demise, by Josephe Patrich, Orit Peleg-Barkat and Erez Ben-Yosef, 111–20, The Israel Exploitation Society. Jerusalem (2016).

Ellabban, Esraa Ahmed Mohamed. ‘The collection of ottoman clay tobacco pipes from Islmailia Museum Reserve in Egypt (Unpublished)’. In Journal of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels-University of Sadat City, Vol. 5, Issue (2/2), (2021): 86–98.

François, Véronique, Marianne Boqvist and Mathieu Eychenne. ‘Objets du quotidien à Damas à l’époque ottomane’. Bulletin d’études orientales, 61 (2012): 475–506.

Guedeau, Nolwenn. Étude préliminaire des pipes ottomanes du Khabour-Est, Kurdistan irakien L’exemple de Bassetki et Muqable. M.A. Thesis, Université de Poitiers, (2019).

Pradines, Stéphane. ‘Note préliminaire sur un atelier de pipes ottomanes à l’est du Caire’. CCE, IFAO, Le Caire, 7 (2004): 281–291.

Saidel, Benjamin A. ‘Tobacco Pipes and the Ophir Expedition to Southern Sinai : Archaeological Evidence of Tobacco Smoking among 18th- and 20th-Century Bedouin Squatters’. In Material Culture Matters : Essays on the Archaeology of the Southern Levant in Honor of Seymour Gitin, by John R. Spencer, Robert A. Mullins, and Aaron J. Brody (2014): 255263.

Simpson, St John. ‘A pipe-bowl from Siwa Oasis (Egypt) and its implication for ottoman pipes studies’. Society for Clay Pipes Research 30 (1991): 10–14.

Tonghini, Cristina. ‘Paesaggi rurali nelle Terre di Mosul’. In Tesori dell’Iraq. Le Missioni Archeologiche Italiane nella Terra tra i due Fiumi. Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana. Fondata da Giovanni Treccani S.P.A. Roma. (2023): 226–231.

N. Guedeau

After a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in oriental archaeology at the University of Poitiers, Nolwenn Guedeau is now a research associate at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies. She is a doctoral student under joint supervision of the University of Bonn (Germany) and the University of Aix-Marseille. Her doctoral research in Ottoman archaeology focuses on the tobacco industry and consumption in the Ottoman Empire under the supervision of Bethany J. Walker (Islamic Archaeology Research Unit) and Véronique François (LA3M). She is notably engaged as an archaeologist and ceramologist in Iraqi Kurdistan and Saudi Arabia.

Citer ce billet
Nolwenn Guedeau (2023, 7 décembre). Two Ottoman smoking pipes from Egypt rediscovered at the Louvre Museum. Les carnets de l’Ifpo. Consulté le 15 juin 2024, à l’adresse

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2 réponses

  1. St John Simpson dit :

    Dear Nolwenn

    This is a great note and always good to see the rough pipes being published too. There are Fustat pipes in other collections too, including three in the Petrie Museum in London (with online photos), the Pitt Rivers and the BM (search under smoking-pipe), so doubtless others elsewhere too, and it would make a good study by bringing them together. Peter French published a large group from excavations in Cairo too:

    French, P.G. (2001). Smoking Pipes of the Islamic Period from the Madrasa Tatar al-Hiğaziya. In P. Speiser (ed.), Die Geschichte der Erhaltung Arabischer Baudenkmäler in Ägypten. Die Restaurierung der Madrasa Tatar al-Hiğāzīya und des Sabīl Kuttāb ‘Abd ar-Rahmān Kathudā im Rahmen des Darb-al-Qirmiz-Projektes in Kairo, pp. 213–30. Abhandlung des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Kairo, Islamische Reihe, 8. Heidelberg.

  1. 2 janvier 2024

    […] Two Ottoman smoking pipes from Egypt rediscovered at the Louvre Museum, par Nolwenn Guedeau, sur Les carnets de l’Ifpo ; […]

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