Emirati children created simple games, taking inspiration from their surroundings and environment, that illustrate a universality of innocence, connecting children around the world through imagination and creativity.
Teela refers to a small glass ball, similar to a marble. It is one of the most popular Emirati traditional games for boys and is considered one of the most collective. The first player stands on the line and throws the teela. Then another player stands on the line and throws his teela. If his opponent’s teela is far away, he throws his ball to the nearest hole. If it lands inside, he then tries to hit his opponent’s teela, and if successful, takes his opponent’s ball.
Habil Al Zaibal is a collective dynamic and vocal game with much diversity. The game consists of a rope of two or three metres in length which is tied around a board mounted on the ground, or fixed to a large pebble.
Al Dusays means ‘hiding’ or ‘disappearing’, as the Arabic verb indass means to hide. This hide-and-seek game is played by three to five players but can even reach up to 20, and is played by both girls and boys up to the age of 15.
Al Zubout or ‘whirlpool’ is another popular collective game. It revolves around a conical piece of wood which pivots on an iron tip at the bottom. The player holds on to a thread affixed to the wooden piece, between his pinkie and ring finger. The purpose of the game is to spin and weave the longest Zubout.
Al Miryhana (or Derfana) is a popular game for girls and women. It is one of the oldest and most appealing games for women in the region and is distinguished by movement and lyrical sounds. Al Miryhana is usually played during the afternoons of Eid. In days gone by, women used to play this game in the mornings, before noon prayer, after they had finished preparing lunch.
Al Karabi is one of the bilateral collective games where there are two teams. The game is characterised by cheering, encouragement and participation. Al Karabi depends on the players’ skills in maintaining their balance.
Al Gaheef is a popular Emirati traditional game for girls in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf. In other countries, this game is better known by ‘Al Hejlah’. A grid of rectangles is drawn on the ground, starting from smaller to largest, with two adjacent rectangles considered as a rest position. The first player throws the al gaheef – usually a stone or clay pellet – and then hops on one leg until she reached the rectangle where the stone landed. She then picks up the stone and makes an ‘x’ mark indicating that the rectangle is now hers. The winner is the one who marks the most rectangles.
Al Sagala is a quick, fun traditional Emirati game involving five pebbles. It is played by two to four and involves manual dexterity and alertness. The game begins with a player throwing the five pebbles to the ground and picking one up and tossing it into the air. While the pebble is in the air, the players pick up another pebble from the ground and catches the one in the air so that they end up with two pebbles in their hand, and continues to do so while increasing the number of pebbles. If they grab all four and catches the fifth then they win the game.
Adim Allawh, as it is called in some parts of Al Ain, Sharjah and Dubai, is a traditional Emirati game that is usually played on moonlit nights. It requires good sportsmanship and physical fitness.
‘Adim Al Sira, tah wendara, le wall ilkum?’
(A secret bone, dropped and lost, is it mine or yours?)
Umm Al Iyal, or Umm Al Awlad (‘Mother of the children’), is one of the most popular tag games and variations are also played by children in other countries. The game is accompanied by songs and comprises an attentive mother, played by one of the older or bigger children, and the ‘children’. The other players line up to take cover behind the ‘mother’, forming a train. A separate player is cast in the role of the wily wolf.
Khoosa Boosa is a group game based on a rhyme and which counts to 10. It is more popular with girls. The players sit in a circle with their palms down on the floor between each other. One of the girls recites the rhyme and counts to 10 while touching the spread-out fingers of the other girls, one after the other.