List of traditional games of Qatar. The culture of Qatar is strongly influenced by traditional Bedouin culture, with less acute influence deriving from India, East Africa and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The peninsula’s harsh climatic conditions compelled its inhabitants to turn to the sea for sustenance. Thus, there is a distinct emphasis placed on the sea in local culture. Literature and folklore themes are often related to sea-based activities.
Oral arts such as poetry and singing were historically more prevalent than figurative art because of the restrictions placed by Islam on depictions of sentient beings; however, certain visual art disciplines such as calligraphy, architecture and textile arts were widely practiced. Figurative arts were gradually assimilated into the country’s culture during the oil era.
Did you know that in Qatar there are a lot of traditional games, some of which are still played till date?
In the past, these games not only provided entertainment but also stimulated the brain, kept them physically active and were enjoyable. Some of the games reflected the everyday lives of the people of Qatar back in the day and were passed down from generation to generation. Experts and historians believe that more than 100 games were played in different parts, but they slowly faded over time. We all know that technology and gaming have taken over our lives now but this blast from the past is a beautiful reminder of the traditional games that are still played and loved by all in Qatar today.
Two of the most popular board games were a’ailah and al haluwsah. Other traditional sports practiced in the country include falconry, camel racing and hunting.
Ana Altheib Bakelkom
It is a multiplayer game and is for girls and for boys who are below the age of 10. One of the players takes the role of a wolf (generally played by the boy) and one other player takes the role fo a mother who protects the other players, her children, from the big bad wolf. The mother gives each of her children a secret colour without the wolf hearing her. She puts a barrier like a cloth or draws a line and hides her kids behind it. The wolf comes saying ”I am the wolf, I have come to eat you”, the mother repeats ”I am the mother, I am here to protect you”. After several trials, the mother asks the wolf to pick a colour and when the wolf comes and asks for a particular colour, the player with the assigned colour comes out and the wolf runs after the player, trying to catch them. This continues until the time is up.
Taag Taag Tagia
This is also called Duck Duck Goose, a popular game in the western world. The players of this fun, multi-player game sit around a circle, facing each other with their eyes closed while one person runs around them, singing a special song called Taag Taag Tagia. The player will drop an object, which is usually a cap (ghitra), and races away. The player behind whom it was left must chase after the first player, trying to catch the player or to circle back and sit in the vacant area. Whoever is left behind standing, has to start the game all over again
Dama is a board game similar to Checkers or Draughts. It is said that Qatari fishermen used to carry the game with them to play and relax while at sea. This is usually played by the older generation and can still be seen played by some of them even today at places like Souq Waqif. It is played on a board consisting of 64 squares, alternating between disks of two colours (light and dark). To start, each player places their pieces along the second and third rows of the board on opposite sides. Whichever player has the light coloured disk, goes first.
Carrom is a traditional board game, played especially during the time of Ramadan when friends and relatives get together. Although this is an old game, it still remains one of the favourite ones for adults and kids alike. The game consists of a wooden board with four pockets to collect the falling pieces, at the edges. It is played by two or four people, sitting at each face of the board or at the opposite sides. The queen disk or piece is placed at the centre, followed by six pieces around it in alternate colours. The remaining twelve pieces are placed on the outer circle to it, in alternating colours. The striker piece is used to flick the other pieces and push them into the corner pockets and the player who pockets the Queen gets the bonus point.
The name of the game means the big horned sheep. This is played by a group where the first player squats on the floor and raises his legs, which are held by one of the other players. This player tries to pounce on the other players and once the person who holds the leg sees an opportunity, leaves him and tries to catch the other players. Once a player is caught, he becomes the sheep and the game begins all over again.
This is a quick and fun game, usually played by young children, sitting in a circle. It is similar to the game – Jackstone. This game is played with five smooth stones and the player uses only one hand to throw the stone in the air while grabbing all the other remaining stones quickly and capturing the one thrown in the air along with the others. This can be played by a single player too.
This game involves the pushing or rolling of a metal wheel, usually a bicycle wheel, also called Dahrawi. The kids run by pushing the wheel with the help of a long stick or a metal wire. This is usually enjoyed by young boys in Qatar. The game teaches kids the ability to control, be quick and push the wheel in a clever manner until they reach the finish point before others.
This is one of the games that rely on physical strength for throwing the gaiss, which is a disc made of metal or iron. This disc is thrown by one of the players on the aim they decide while playing this game. This game is played on solid ground and not on sandy ground. The players dig a small hole of around 3 inches in depth and width and it is played by betting to make it more challenging. The bet is called al telah, a round piece of glass that is important to determine the winner and loser. The game starts by drawing a line on the ground about 3-4 yards from the hole and they draw a raffle to see who will start first.
It is a multiplayer game that uses marbles made of glass of various sizes. The number of players ranges from 2 -10, where the first player is called Awwal and the second player is called Akho Alawwal or the brother of the first. The player before that last is called Akho Toosh and the last player is called Toosh. This is a challenging game and being focused and clever can help the player to win the game. This game is played on a flat surface with shallow holes in the size of a coffee cup, to flick the opponent’s marbles out of the area. The game of Teelah is played between the Asr and Maghrib prayer times, 1-2 hours before sunset.
Sebbah is a game played with pebbles or small stones and is played by a group of boys and girls sitting in a circle on a sandy ground, facing each other. A big square is drawn on the ground and each child puts three stones in different places on the square. Once the game starts, each kid tries to make a straight line and the kid that finishes first is the winner.
Al Gallinah and Matou
It is a traditional multiplayer game played by both boys and girls. This game is played with two wooden sticks, one around 15 cm long, tapering at both ends and the other around 30-40 cm long and involves two teams to play it. The longer stick is used as a bat to hit the smaller piece of wood and the team with the most points wins.
This is a team sports game which is based on strength, agility, lightness, quick wit as well as running. The game consists of two teams made up of different numbers. The players first collect flat stones and place them one of top of another. Then they mark a place, usually 1.5 meters away from the stack of stones. Then they draw a raffle and decide which team will go first. The winning team goes first and the player from the team has to hit the stack of stones with a ball trying to topple as many stones as possible. As the first team tries to go and grab the ball, the second team tries to collect and place the toppled stones as fast as they can on top of each other again. This continues and once all the stones are toppled, the second team plays again. This game is repeated and does not limit to only two teams.
It is a game of cards. It consists of two colours – red and black and has four shapes or symbols. Every two shapes are given a colour and a name. In Qatar, the two black shapes are called cluffs and speet. The other two red shapes are called has and damen. The picture on the cards has names too. The King is called the Al Bashar, the Jack is called Al Ghulam, The Queen is called Meem and the number 1 is called Khal. This is a game of luck and is played in the majlis, with a bet or even without. It is also a game that has its own calculations and rules and has to be played smartly.
Busbit – Dead or Alive
This game used to be played to teach boys to hold their breath for as long as possible. This was also a practice for them to become the most skilled divers and helped them during the oyster season to harvest pearls. This is usually played only by boys and not girls. It is played along the seashore, where a hole is dug in the sand and the player that goes first covers his head with the ghitra. The other players throw sand on top of the first player repeating the line ‘Is Busbit dead or alive?’. The first player responds ‘alive’ for as long as he can hold his breath and once he cannot, he responds ‘dead’ after which it is the next player’s turn.
La Tattahadani wa la Atahadak or Don’t challenge me or I will challenge you
This is a game characterized by strength and enthusiasm and is played by young people as it makes them feel heroic. The game is played by two people with a neutral referee and the players sit opposite to each other on chairs with a table in front of them. And they arm wrestle until a winner is picked by the referee.
This is a game for both boys and girls in which the first player closes his/her eyes and the rest disappear in different places and the first player goes looking for them before the other players come back to the first player’s place. If the first player catches one of them, they would have to start the game again and if one of the other players comes back here, the first player has to start all over again.
This is a game played by a group of boys with a conical wooden piece or a top. A string is wound around the top and they let it go so that the top starts spinning. The skill of the player is tested when they try to pick up the spinning top and see who can keep it spinning the longest in the palm of their hand.
Domino is played between 2-4 people and it has 28 tokens distributed and organized from 0 until number 6, and each number has 7 blocks. It is a game usually played in the majlis and is very popular. It is also played professionally. The game lies in knowing and guessing what is inside the opponent’s mind as it involves calculations and it is a game between the numbers that are shown and the ones that are hidden, in a clever manner.
Natt Al Habl or Jumping Rope
This is a single-player or a multiplayer game, played by girls using a rope. They draw who goes first and do this by standing in a single line and the eldest starts counting from 1-10, where the player the number 10 lands on goes out of the game. This continues till the last one remains and this person will start the game. The first player starts skipping till she stops or trips. The multiplayer game consists of two teams. After the draw, two players from one team hold the rope on each side and two or more players from the other team jump the rope until one of them gets tired or they fall or trip. This goes on until the time is up.
It is one of the most simple and easy games that both boys and girls can play. It has very easy rules and is played in a limited space by kids with ages 3 and above. Once the children agree to start the game, they draw a raffle to be divided into two teams. Two children remain on the floor while the others play. The two players on the ground sit facing each other and stretch their legs and the first player runs from a distance to jump and make it across the stretched legs. The two players try to stretch the legs and try to hold the other players until they get a point for their team.
This game teaches children the fundamentals of taking care of a home. They learn how to furnish a house and take care of it. It consists of a carton box representing a house which includes a majlis, the different rooms etc. The children also make dolls to be kept inside the dollhouse. The dolls are made with the bones of a chicken or birds to form a human skeleton, which is then wrapped with hay, cloth and threads to give it form. The children also name the dolls and take care of them and keep the dolls safe in the box once the play is over.
The most well-loved games are shaped by a community’s unique heritage and resources. Aiming to document this memory for future generations, this illustrated book is an excellent reference for all the games children used to play in Qatar in the old days.
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