If you are going to start any new hobby or pastime, you should always start from the basics and work your way up to the more complicated advancements. For hookah, your starting point should be the Egyptian clay bowl.

These are fashioned by hand and made out of Egyptian red clay. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but are usually thick walled with a relatively deep dish shape. Because of their handmade nature they usually seem a bit roughly finished, but you shouldn’t let that get you down because the heat properties of Egyptian red clay are great.

When packing tobacco in an Egyptian clay bowl, start by mixing your tobacco up to make sure that the juices are evenly distributed. This also helps to fluff the tobacco and break up the clumps that can make evenly heating the bowl difficult. Traditionally this is done with your hands, but I suggest transferring the tobacco to a Tupperware container so that you can mix it up with a fork. It’s not as messy and it’s a better way to store your tobacco.

Actually packing the bowl is a simple matter of filling the bowl with the fluffed tobacco to the point that it’s just under the rim. Press it down slightly to eve out the top of the tobacco and make sure that it won’t touch the foil.

Take a square of foil that is large enough to cover the top of the bowl and sides, wrapping down to the neck. This surface area allows the foil to grip the bowl and keep from sagging when coals are placed on top. Now you just poke the holes and you’re good to go.

Time for a great hookah session!