Page 1


It is impossible to think of a fasting month without meeting with friends and neighbours and play a game of dominos after the iftar meal. Ramadan evenings are moments for relaxation for all generations. Nothing is as pleasant as meeting around a table and spend hours at this game which originated in India and was changed by the Chinese. The rules are easy and this helped the game move from country to country to eventually become a favourite among citizens in Algeria. Everybody plays the game but especially the jobless do, which has helped the game become synonymous for laziness and laisser-aller. Still it is the easiest and cheapest means to... fight boredom and spend time with others. This game and the talking around a glass of tea seem to be top entertainment. Many young players on the ground floors let go their emotions and throw the game's pieces while raising their voice. The Moorish cafĂŠs of old, which even used to rent out game pieces, are definitely disappearing. Yet, the game seems to survive thanks to a new generation of players that is smaller yet not less passionate about the game. Others have found another way to deal with change: Go on-line and play. Allegedly, it does not produce any noise.

In Kabylie, the dominos game is a real passion. In villages, with no exception, many elderly and young men spend their time-off playing the game. Already in the morning, older men come together in the village cafĂŠ and start playing; sun or rain, summer or winter, they are there. They display the dominos on a piece of cardboard, fabric or carpet that is cut to size for the game. And of course, they have a sheet of paper and a pencil ready to put down scores. Losers do not hide their frustration while onlookers enthusiastically comment on the game.


A Boukala is a kind of saying, expressing a prayer. Women spend Ramadan evenings or wedding nights practising them around a glass of sherbet (lemonade) or mint tea. Originally, this is a Algiers women's creation. Now, the bouqala ritual has become a traditional divination game. Women gather around a usually older woman and each of the women puts a jewel in a earthenware jar. The old woman recites a poem and then a young girl takes one of the jewels at random. The woman it belongs to must find in the poem she has heard something that may tell her more about her life, her loves, her travel or her happiness and misfortune... . This game also consists in making a knot while thinking of someone. One person will tell her a boukala. If the knot is untied easily, the poem/citation will come true.


Imagine. You walk in the streets of Saint-Hubert, a small town located at the hearth of Belgium's Ardennes. It is also known as the European capital of hunting and nature. Suddenly you hear a blaring announcement: "Concours de couyon. This Sunday at the pigeon fancier's meeting room of Saint-Hubert. Many prizes to win. " "Le couyon" (also "couillon") is a popular cards game played in many regions in Belgium. It takes four to play the game. Two teams of two. The rules are rather simple and the goal is to make as many tricks as possible during the game. A game consist of several tricks. The loser gets a 'couille', and at the end of the game the winner is the one with the least 'couilles'.... Because it is so easy to play, it can be played from the age of 10 onwards and brings together all generations. There are many 'couyon' contests in Belgium. They are often organised as a fund raiser for a sports club, a neighbourhood committee or a charity. And it is fun!


Everyone is familiar with archery. Pole archery is not as well known. It is a traditional sports that is practised in Belgium as well as in parts of France, Scotland, the Netherlands and Canada. This skills game originated in the Middle Ages and today only a few passionate sportsmen who form archery societies practice the sports. The principle is simple: Hit the "popinjay", a feathered wooden or plastic target bird, which is set at about thirty metres of elevation. There are even indoors poles so the sports can be practised year round. Archers societies meet throughout the year and there are championships as well. Pole archery requires skill, patience, precision and concentration. Protecting the patrimony This traditional type of game/sports is on the wane. Sportimonium, a not-for-profit organisation, runs a programme for ludodiversity and protects traditional games and play in Flanders and elsewhere in the face of the threat of the disappearance of traditional games and sports. This is an exemplary programme that is recognized by UNESCO as best practice.


In western Africa one does not expect older men to be playing with toy horses. Yet, "Ludo" is a very popular game in Benin. Like its western counterpart, the game board is split in four coloured parts. In each of these parts you can find a stable, from where four pawns have to be moved to cross enemy lines and succeed in reaching the final square. Ludo in Benin allows for more "dirty tricks"! You can set up dams by lining up pawns in a same square and hinder others in their progress. You can also eat pawns on which you fall and send them back to their starting spot. But the special thing is that pawns can also be eaten backwards. Even when you have entered the last part to proceed to the last square, a horse may appear and kill an enemy. According to a Benin friend, "hinder the other player in his advance is fun!" Ludo brings together people of all ages and is therefore less serious than traditional "Awalé". At street crossings, vendors sell the game for 1,500 francs CFA at most. Pupils have fun drawing and producing their own game board on paper. A project of BTC in Benin aims to raise awareness among populations around Ahémé Lake about good hygiene and environmental conservation practices. It is called simply "Lud'eco"…


On Fridays after 6 pm bars and restaurants are filled with friends who want to play traditional cacho alalay, a game of dice that has become an important part of popular culture in Bolivia. The game originated in a Spanish poker game of dice. The origins of the Bolivian version of Alalay are unclear, but apparently the game was born in PotosĂ­ (on the Argentinian and Bolivian border) and later spread throughout the country. The name for the dice cup, "cacho", originates in cattle horns that allegedly used to be used as dice cups.

The game is played with 5 dice and a leather dice cup. The game consists of writing down the points obtained by rolling the 5 dice. The idea is to get the best score possible in function of combinations of points. The dice are mixed and rolled with the dice cup up to 2 time by turn and by team. You can find detailed rules on the following website I There is also a digital version for portables. It is accessible via appszoom.

Points are put down in the tic-tac-toe format according to poker st rules. After launching dice for the 1 time, the player decides which dice he/she will keep and puts the others in the dice cup to roll the dice again. There are Cacho Alalay contests that bring together friends around a glass of beer or traditional singani, a raisin eau-de-vie drink that is produced in Bolivia. So, the party can start!


Wali bought in 1950 by the father of our colleague Fatim Keita (Mali)


Ngola is known under several names (Awalé in Côte d’Ivoire, Wure in Senegal, Wali in Mali …). It is a traditional game known in almost all provinces of Congo. But it is played most on the countryside and less in the cities. It is played by two individuals or two teams of 2 or 3 players each. The game board is a rectangular piece of wood, measuring about 40 cm by 20 cm. It is about 3 to 4 cm thick. The board has four rows with holes. The holes are filled with black marbles. Each team uses the two rows that are closest to it. Ngola is a game that asks for mental focus because a lot of calculation is involved. The goal is to get hold of all marbles of the opponent. And to achieve this, you really have to think hard. That is what makes the game interesting. Young as well as older people are passionate about playing the game. In general, Ngola is played for enjoyment. Money is rarely involved. Even though the game brings together people in neighbourhoods and villages and is good in fighting leisure time boredom, many parents are not keen on seeing their children play the game during the school year because it may negatively impact on school results as playing is really addictive.


The rules may vary.


Ecuavoley is a kind of volleyball. It was born in Ecuador and it is very popular both at the coast and in the mountains. The game's championship started in 1958, when there were no football or basketball championships yet. The rules differ slightly from those of volleyball: Each team has 3 players, the net is higher, the ball used is a football and the players may hold the ball in their hands, but for less than one second. There is a ecuavoley court in every village in Ecuador, so it is far more popular than football. Especially men play ecuavoley even though women have also been attracted by the sports. Neighbours, relatives and friend come together to play in the evening or during weekends and sometimes emotions can run high!


Cuarenta, "forty" in Spanish, is Ecuador's national card game. Even though it is quite complicated it is very popular and almost all Ecuadorians, and especially those living in Quito, know the rules. The first Cuarenta world championship was held in 1968 and it has been part of the annual Quito celebrations in December since.

Cuarenta is a game with two teams (or two persons). The cards used are regular gaming cards but the 8, 9 and 10 are dropped. The goal is to be the first to have 40 points, which is where the name comes from. The two most common ways to get points is to play the card the opponent has just played or to "clean the table". The rules are sacred, including those for mixing the cards. If rules are broken, the game must be started over again.

During the game, players talk a lot, to socialize but also to break an opponent's concentration (with the risk of losing attention oneself!). There is a peculiar and amusing jargon to talk about certain events during the game. For instance, - "Tres por guapo/a" ('Three for the nice one') is said in the beginning of a game when someone has three cards with the same number, which is good for 2 points. - "Dale al lorito" ('Give it to the parrot') is said when it is the turn of the most talkative player. - "La maldad" ('Badness') is said when an opponent takes a card that could have been useful. - "Zapatero" ('Shoeshiner') is said to someone who loses with having less than 10 points. In certain tournaments, the 'shoeshiners' must shine the winning team's shoes.


Bèlèbo is especially played by women. It is played with several tiny pebbles on the floor. A first player takes a pebble from the pile. She throws it up high and before catching it in the air she picks up as many pebbles as possible from the pile (one by one, without touching other pebbles). If the pebble thrown up in the air falls on the floor or if the player touches other pebbles, the following player is on. The difficulty of the exercise is in collecting as many pebbles as possible while a pebble is up in the air. The winner is the woman who has set aside most pebbles.


Ronda is a card game of Mediterranean origin, which originated in Spain and northern Africa, namely in Morocco. Ronda is played with a Spanish card deck (with four Latin colours: cups, swords, batons and coins) and uses forty cards, the numbers 1 to 7 and three other cards (jack (10), knight (11) and king (12)). The 8 and 9 are "missing". The game is played by two, three or four players who make up, when played by four, 2 teams with the players sitting across one another. The goal is to collect as many cards as possible to get most points. A game is won by the first player or team that has more than 20 cards. When the very last card is played, there are most likely still some cards on the table. They go to the player who won the last trick.


When you visit large cities in Niger you are quite likely to find an arena. When you hear people in front of a television screen shouting, giving a hand and listening to traditional music, you can be sure a traditional wrestling contest is on. To Niger, traditional wrestling is what football is elsewhere, i.e. a favourite national sport. It benefits from broad and sound popular support and includes religious elements such as prayer (fathia), cultural elements such as a praising speech (take) and greetings (gaysuwa). In small villages contests are in open air, while in cities competitions are set up between young people. A national championship is held every year and there are international competitions for western Africa. Traditional wrestling is popular in Niger! There is one rule only for winning a fight: The opponent must have both knees on the ground or both legs lifted ("wheelbarrow"). Last February the whole country was in an uproar. It had never happened before in the history of th traditional wrestling in Niger. The 34 national championship turned into a fiasco. It was the talk of town and radio hosts rehashed the event. On TV, the images were broadcast uninterruptedly: The two wrestlers in the second semi-final had both been declared winners at the end of the regulatory 45 minutes of combat. The competition stopped before the final contest. The public did not appreciate this sudden and unseen stop of the competition. It led to vandalism and protests within the arena and around. Fortunately‌ the sports spirit prevailed. Alio Salaou, a wrestler from the Zinder region, was awarded the champion's sword without a final contest. Let us hope that next year Niger can again enjoy a final, incha’allah!


When one remembers one's childhood time, often nostalgia moves in. School breaks, evenings on the street in front of the house, running, playing and laughing with friends. In Niger this is not different. Our colleagues in Niger remember the good old times. As children one of their favourite games was langa.

The game: A team of players challenges a group of opponents. Players face each other in two lines, hold up one foot and try to push down their adversary while hopping on one leg. Unfortunately, such games are disappearing with the advent of imported games. A colleague tells us that he used to play langa with his peers at school and on the street until he was twenty. There used to be tournaments and championships between villages. These were friendly competitions that brought together all generations and turned into actual celebrations.


Seven Stones is a traditional game that school children in Palestine like to play. Play it outdoors in a large space. Materials: Ball (size of soccer ball) 7 flat stones Chalk The game is played in two teams and has two stages. Stage 1: Team 1 selects one player to displace the stones by standing at the end of the pathway and rolling the ball through the pathway or just throwing the ball at the stones. If he fails to do it the first time, then the opposite team takes the turn. If the ball touches but does not displace the stones, then the player can have another try. If the player manages to displace the stones, then the second stage of the game starts. Stage 2: Team 2 goes after the ball while Team 1 puts each of the seven displaced stones in one of the seven small circles.


The nutrition value of guinea pig meet, called cuy in Peru, is welll-established. The rich protein and low fat content make it a popular food. Breeding cuy is a means to generate an extra income for many families in the Andes. But cuy do come with another advantage: It brings GOOD LUCK. In Peru, there is a very popular game called cuy tombola. This game is like other tombolas where, by random drawing, one wins a numbered prize. In Peru, the main protagonist of luck‌ is the guinea pig. The game goes as follows: The cuy is hidden in a box set within a closed circle of small boxes. There is a number and a price on each of these small boxes. Participants wait behind their small box for the animal to be let go from under its box by the game's master. At that moment, the cuy, which is a bit lost and scared by the presence of that many people, starts running to hide in one of the small boxes. Participants shout their number and try in a thousand ways to attract the cuy in their box. The game ends when the cuy has entered one of the boxes. This is how it determines who is the lucky winner. The number of participants varies between 5 and 12 people. As there is only one winner, the game's master can continue selling tickets to new participants. While each game may be quite short, the few seconds that the cuy remains undecided make for real suspense, which is part of the fun of this game. And like any other gambling game, players have only one desire: Try their luck again. In short, a perfect game to raise funds at neighbourhood and school fairs. In the video of Marque PÊrou you can see how a game goes (see minute 8). 15

Igisoro is one of the best-known and most popular traditional games of Rwanda and eastern Africa. In Uganda the game is called Omweso and in Burundi Ikibuguzo. There are western African variants to the game too. Igisoro is played on a rectangular wooden board with four eighthole rows. There are 64 'seeds' to be put in the holes. There are game boards that can be folded, for easier storage and transport without risking the loss of seeds. The seeds can be pebbles, marbles, beans or maize kernels. In villages, Igisoro game boards are sometimes cut out in the rocks. Igisoro is a game for two. A game can last a few minutes up to hours. It seems quite easy to play the game, yet Igisoro may be quite hard to win. You need keen concentration and you have to especially have a mind for numbers. The game is mainly played by men, especially after work in the field to socialize and kill time. The goal of the game is to win all of one's opponents' seeds. Victory comes when one of the players can not sow his/her seeds anymore.


Langa Buri is a traditional game to sharpen curiosity and enhance the sense for analysis and tracking among children. It also enhances survival skills in case of attack. In the past it was played to train children to become hunters. Children usually play the game after dinner, with the moon out, on the village green. The goal is to find a hidden piece a fabric that is knotted into a rope somewhere near the playing field (the village green). The game's master shouts "Langa! " to launch the search. Players look for the rope and the first one to find it may use it as he/she likes to hit other players. To escape the latter, each player must reach and touch a goal, which is agreed upon in advance. Usually this is the village palaver tree.


In Tanzania there are many games, some being played by pairs, others in relatively larger groups. Bao, which is a kind of chess game played by only two, is common in the coast area. At festivals, with everyone looking for fun, usually traditional dances dominate. In Tanzania, chicken are kept in a free range system with the fowl left to roam outside the house during the day and let in for the night. As such the chicken are strong and sharp because often they have to be alert and escape predators esp. birds of prey. As a consequence, when there is a need during the day to catch a chicken to slaughter it, the big challenge is gathering a group of people and chasing the fowl until it’s tired or cornered. Often the chasers get tired though. The above scenario evolved into a very interesting game challenging the energy and tactics of people. A group of about 10 people would play each time. The players form a ring around a fowl that is let loose in the middle of the ring. The fowl will try to escape the chasers. It will run changing direction, flying and dodging by all means making the chasers fall every now and then and leaving them exhausted in the end. Often the fowl will be caught within a few minutes but only after players and spectators alike have laughed a lot. If the fowl is not exhausted another group can play the game again or another fowl can be used. The winner will get a prize in the form of the fowl that is caught. The game is especially popular for staff and family members of companies when they have social or professional gatherings. It’s a team-building activity.

Lynda Khelifi, Harika Ronse, Myriam Tamayo, Yannis Derbali, Sara Van Den Eynde, Fatim Keita, Meriem Hilali, Karlien Gorissen, Daniel Lubanga, Joline Fatouleh – Naber, Sofia Nalda, Felicien Kabasele, Prudence Uwabakurikiza, Gisèle Leye, Frida Nyongo


Time out  

The culture and tradition of games from our countries

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you