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Traditional Games in Saudi Arabia

Instructor: Brittney Clere

Brittney, a National Board Certified Teacher, has taught social studies at the middle school level for 15 years.

Saudi Arabia is known for its wealth, strict religious beliefs, and traditional dress. But this conservative lifestyle does not prevent them from having fun! In this lesson, learn about several traditional games still played in the Kingdom today.

The Culture of Saudi Arabia

Strong religious beliefs, customs, and values are a basis for the highly conservative culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The rules of the Islamic religion are part of every aspect of their life from work, to school, and even to how they dress. Ranked the most gender-segregated nation in the world, men and women's interactions are greatly limited, especially in public.

Despite the strict traditions and customs of Saudi Arabia, they still have fun! Soccer, swimming, and gymnastics are all popular sports and some people even enjoy a new pastime, nicknamed sidewalk skiing. This crazy activity involves balancing a car on just the two side wheels as it moves down a desert road! However, others choose to entertain themselves in a less dangerous way with games traditional to their country. Below, we'll explore some of the most common games.

The Hunter

This traditional game will probably sound familiar. The Hunter is a game of hide-and-seek combined with tag. The player picked to be the hunter counts while the other players run and hide. Then, the hunter searches for them. When he finds someone, he must chase and tag them. The game doesn't end there, however. The hunter must find and tag all the players! Once he does, then the first player tagged is the new hunter.

Ghommemah

If you have ever played Blind Man's Bluff, then you will recognize this game. Ghommemah is a game of tag made more challenging because the tagger is blindfolded! The players run around while the blindfolded tagger chases them. When he catches someone, he must guess who it is. If he guesses correctly, that player becomes the tagger. If he is incorrect, then the game continues.

English version of Ghommemah
Ghommemah

Fashkhah

Fashkhah is a game that could end with some sore legs! Two players sit next to each other on the ground, with their legs straight out and touching. The third player runs and tries to jump over their legs. If he makes it over, then they scoot further apart to make the gap wider. Each time the jumper clears the gap, they move further apart. The round continues until the jumper fails to make it over in one leap.

Carrom

Although it is played differently, carrom is very similar to pool. One player has nine black disks, and their opponent has nine white. There is also a disk called the striker, and a red disk called the Queen. The four corners of the game board have pockets, and the players must get all of their disks plus the Queen into the pockets. This is done by flicking the striker with their finger to hit the other disks.

Once a player has cleared all of his disks, he wins the round and earns one point for each of his opponent's disks still on the board. If he also pocketed the Queen, then he receives a bonus of five points. Play continues until a player reaches 25 points, or eight boards have been played.

A carrom game board
Carrom game board.

Backgammon

One of the oldest games in the world, backgammon has been played in Saudi Arabia for centuries. It is played on a board split down the center with a bar. One side is called the home board, and the other is the outer board. There are 24 triangles on the board grouped into four quadrants of six. Each triangle is numbered 1-24 starting on each player's home board. Which means, the 24 spot for one player is the 1 spot for his opponent.

A backgammon board.
Backgammon board

Both players have fifteen checkers. Two are placed on their 24-point triangle, five on the 13-point, three on the 8-point, and finally five on the 6-point. The objective is for a player to move all of his checkers to the six triangles on his home board, and then off the board completely.

The moves are determined by rolling two dice which indicate two separate moves. For example, if a five and a three are rolled, then the player can move one checker five spots and another checker three spots. Or, they could just move one checker eight spots. A checker cannot be moved, however, to a spot that has two or more of his opponent's checkers.

The direction of player moves in backgammon
Backgammon moves.

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