Narghilot (otherwise known as hubble-bubbles, shishas and hookahs) are only as good as the head you have packed, and packing the head is an exact science. The first thing to do is make sure that you have good quality tobacco. Al-Nakhla tobacco (from Egypt) is generally recognised to be the best, although having said that, tobacco produced by the Arabic Factory of Smoking is also acceptable. As an aside, a friend of mine was once sold some tobacco that looked very much like Al-Nakhla, but was in fact a fake, produced in Gaza. So, how to pack the perfect head! Step 1 Make sure that you are using a good head for the narghila. I find that the best ones are relatively deep, although other people feel that shallower bowls work better. Deep bowls will only really work if you use the ‘Syrian’ method (more on that in a minute), so, if you don’t bother with that, then a deep bowl will probably result in lots of unused tobacco at the end. Step 2 The fabled ‘Syrian’ Method! Take a piece of tin foil roughly two and a half times the diameter of the bowl of the head, and place the tin foil inside the bowl, smoothing it down so that it is flush to the side, then poke holes in it with a pin where there are holes in the bottom of the head. From this point onwards, you have to be careful not to disturb the foil; otherwise you may end up covering over the holes, which would be thoroughly unpleasant. The reason for this is that it reflects the heat all the way around the tobacco, giving it a more even cook. This ensures a much better flavour, although it does also mean that the tobacco cooks slightly quicker. Step 3 Prepare the tobacco. Decide what flavour(s) you want to smoke. Fruit flavours are usually a good choice, but some should only be chosen as mixers. Mint works especially well as a mixer (for example with cola, sounds awful, but it’s actually really good!), because its flavour is delivered in a different way(and don't even think of using sockpuppet's method!). Any other flavour and the actual flavours come through on the exhale. Mint gives its flavour on the inhale. AVOID CANDY FLAVOURED TOBACCO AT ALL COSTS! It will ruin your narghila, and it does taste bleeding awful. Strawberry is a little too weak to smoke on its own, so that’s best as a mixer as well, for example with banana. When you have decided what flavour to do, take your time with the packing. Separate out each leaf, and make sure you have none stuck together. To do this, break off a chunk of the leaf in the packet, and stir it with one finger, until it has broken up a lot, then you can separate each leaf. Your hands do tend to get quite messy when doing this, and it will take about 10 minutes or so, but the pros outweigh the cons. Doing this allows the air to circulate better, meaning that all of the leaf is cooked, not just part of it. This gives a much better flavour, and means that you use all of the leaf. It also means that you can actually use much less of the leaf for the same effect/length of time of the head. Step 4 Foil. Take a big piece of foil (a little bigger than the one in step 2) and cover the entire head, and smooth down the sides. Now take a fine pin, and prick holes in the foil. Some people stand by patterns in the holes, others say not too many holes is good. The international standard is small holes, hence the pin, because big holes allow the coal to go through into the tobacco, which you DON’T want. For best results, put ice in the bottle of the narghila, which condenses the smoke. Also, some soft music, big cushions and a shesh-besh board works quite well enjoy!

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