Traditional arabic games

Camel image by Indian Digital Art from

Some traditional Arabic games were not just played centuries ago but are still played today, both in and outside of the Middle East. Such games include board games like seega and mancala; others, like camel races are also part of traditional Arabic culture and can be observed today by visitors to the Middle East.


Seega is a game that is played in Egypt and in other areas of the Middle East. The board game often consists of 5 x 5 squares, although 7 x 7 and 9 x 9 boards exist as well. Each player starts off with 12 game pieces, which can be as simple as potsherds or rocks. More game pieces are used for the boards with more squares. Like draughts, the object of the game is to move your pieces and to capture your opponent's. Pieces are taken from the board if your opponent makes a move that places one of his game pieces between two of yours. However, if a piece is sandwiched diagonally between an opponent's, it does not count. The game ends when a player has one piece left. (see ref 4)


Mancala is an ancient game that has been variously dated as stemming from 7,000 to 5,000 B.C. in what is now Jordan. Another scholar has stated that the game orginated in ancient Egypt in the 15th to 11th centuries B.C. Still some believe that the game originally came from Africa. Either way, many experts believe that mancala is the oldest board game in the world. Mancala still exists in various forms in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East, and has enjoyed renewed popularity in the United States in recent years.

The game board usually consists of 8 or 12 holes arranged in two rows, with 2 larger bins at either end. The holes on the board are the playing pits, and the bins at the ends are scoring pits called kahalas or mancalas. The object of the game is to have the most stones, or gaming pieces, in your mancala. The game starts with each player having several stones (4 or 6, for instance) in their pits. The first player takes all the stones from one of his pits and places one stone each into the next several pits, including the scoring pit and his opponent's pit in a counter-clockwise fashion around the board. The second player does the same thing. Points are only awarded for gaming pieces that end up in your own scoring pit. The game ends when one player has a majority of the stones in his scoring pit and there are only a few stones left in the playing pits.

Camel Races

These races are a traditional pastime of the Bedouin, an Arabic, nomadic people who have lived in North Africa and the Middle East for centuries. Camel races, or dromedary races, as dromedaries are actually used in these events, have in more recent times become somewhat popular. The dromedaries may be ridden by robots as well as people. Officials may follow the race by driving along the side of the track to see which animal finishes first. Various nations in the Middle East hold camel races, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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