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Remember when children played outside? An Ode to Traditional Arabic Games

Last Updated on by Admin


Long before humans started matching colors on our mobile screens to crush candies for fun, playing games meant bonding with another human. Games were not just sources of amusement but were deeply rooted in the region’s cultural fabric, reflecting its history, values, and way of life.

Recently, a research finding by Dr. Karyn Purvis has been getting quite popular across the internet. According to the child development specialist, “It takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain unless it is done in play, in which case it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions”.

And maybe that’s why play time is so instrumental to our social lives. But in this internet era of being glued to screens for gaming, are the synapses we’re creating in our brains relevant to our earthly, tactile survival?

A Rediscovery of Lost Traditional Arabian Games

Arabia is famous for its rich cultural tapestry and deep-rooted history. Among these riches are the traditional Arabic games, once beloved pastimes that have gradually faded into obscurity.

In the bustling streets and skyscrapers of modern Arabia, the sound of the neighborhood kids gathering for playtime no longer exists. We’re all in a hurry to get to somewhere quickly and slowing down to pass time with friends over a round of carrom is a luxury only few can afford.

Let’s go down memory lane and reignite the collective nostalgia of playing games.

Al Rein

Also called Pithu Garam, it’s easy to assume this was an old game because even the baby boomer generation remembers it with fondness. Finding the perfect rocks and lining them to form a sturdy tower was fun. Even more fun was screaming “Pithu” when the pile toppled. The heavier the rock the harder it was to topple them. Sometimes a game of tag would follow, the chaser had to tag all players as the other players attempted to rebuild the pile before the chaser caught them all.

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Hawalees (Arabian Tag)

Hawalees (Arabian Tag)

Hawalees is a traditional Arabian version of the classic game of tag. Played outdoors, it involves one player (the “it”) chasing and tagging other players to make them “it.” The game requires speed, agility, and strategic evasion tactics, making it a favorite among children and youth.

To take it up a notch, The traditional Arabic game called Ghommenah involves blindfolding the poor tagger who has to then guess who he has tagged after chasing them!

Sijjada (Arabian Wrestling)

Sijjada (Arabian Wrestling)

ijjada, or Arabian Wrestling, is a traditional sport that has been practiced for centuries in the Arabian Peninsula. Unlike modern wrestling, Sijjada emphasizes technique and agility over brute strength. Wrestlers engage in graceful movements, attempting to throw their opponents off balance and pin them to the ground. This ancient sport not only showcased physical prowess but also served as a symbol of honor and valor.

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Khashkhashah (Arabian Hopscotch)

A young boy joyfully playing with chalk on the ground, surrounded by other children.
Khashkhashah is a traditional Arabian game similar to hopscotch. It’s played by drawing a grid on the ground and using a small stone or marker to hop through the squares in a specific sequence. It’s a game children enjoy, promoting physical activity and coordination.

Natt Al Habl or Jumping Rope

A group of children are enjoying the beach, with a boat in the background, creating a serene and picturesque scene.
In Natt Al Habl, the rope is usually held by two people while one or more players jump over it, performing various tricks and movements. It’s a fun and energetic activity that’s often played by children in the Arab world and is part of their cultural heritage. Jump rope was more common with the girls. The most fun part was getting as many girls as you could to jump the rope but someone would always fall.

Tawleh (Arabian Backgammon)

Tawleh (Arabian Backgammon)
Tawleh, also known as Arabian Backgammon, is a beloved board game that has been played for generations in Arabian households. Played on a distinctive wooden board adorned with intricate designs, Tawleh involves strategic movement of pieces based on the roll of dice. This game not only provided hours of entertainment but also fostered camaraderie and friendly competition among players.

Bring back the nostalgia of outdoor gatherings and games, book your Keshta experience.

Dama (Arabian Checkers)

Dama (Arabian Checkers)
Dama, also known as Arabian Checkers, is a strategic board game that traces its origins back to ancient Mesopotamia. Played on a checkered board, this game requires players to outmaneuver their opponents by moving pieces diagonally and capturing their opponent’s pieces. Dama was not just a game of skill but also a social activity, bringing people together in cafes and homes across the region.

Carrom

A carrom board game being played at a community center

Carrom is a well-loved game in Saudi Arabia. Families and friends often gather and enjoy a game of carrom during leisure time or social gatherings, especially during winter picnics known as Keshta. The ones who enjoyed this special game still smile at the memories of stacking the pieces together, covering the board in powder till it was slippery, and aiming for that coveted red queen. There might even be carrom clubs or associations in certain communities or cities where enthusiasts can come together to play competitively or casually.

Al Saqlah

Al Saqlah
This game is played by girls only. The number of players is at most four girls. They make a shallow hole in the ground and put several shells or pebbles in the hole. One of them throws the keystone upwards, extracts as many stones as she can from the hole, and then catches the keystone before it hits the ground. She repeats this action for as long as she can catch the keystone.

When she fails to catch the keystone, she must return the last lot of stones to the hole and the turn moves to the next player. This continues until there are no more stones in the hole. The winner is the player who collects the highest number of stones.

Enjoy Camel Racing in Riyadh

Reviving the Past, Embracing Tradition

A group of people enjoying the desert landscape.
Despite the passage of time, there is a renewed interest in preserving and reviving these traditional Arabian games.

Maybe it’s time to bring the unadulterated childhood gamesback into our lives.

  • Cultural festivals and events could serve as platforms for showcasing traditional Arabian games and educating the public about their significance.
  • Schools and educational institutions are incorporating traditional Arabian games into their curriculum, allowing students to learn about their cultural heritage through hands-on experiences.
  • Community workshops and gatherings bring people together to play and provide a space for sharing knowledge, exchanging stories, and fostering connections across generations.

Let’s Laugh Like Children Again

Three hikers standing on a mountain peak, enjoying the scenic view.

The rediscovery of lost traditional games can be a gateway to tackling the menace of social isolation and digital dependence. These seemingly simple activities embody the timeless wisdom that nurtures the mental and physical well-being of entire communities. So, let’s go back to the playgrounds, stay open to adventure, and laugh like children again.

Join us to walk down memory lane in Summer, book Childhood of Bu Kinaz Tour in Al Baha.

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