Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

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One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
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One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games. (AN photos)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Saudi store leads fightback as board games throw down the gauntlet to online rivals

JEDDAH: Chess, Monopoly, Baloot, Snakes and Ladders — board and card games have been part of family and social life for thousands of years.
Now a Saudi store is helping these age-old pastimes fight back against the dominance of their online and mobile phone rivals, and the social isolation that these encourage.
Challenge Round offers more than 200 board games from around the world, with eight playing tables. Each table seats eight players and, for a SR35 ($9.30) fee, visitors can play with friends and family — or alone.
Rami Sunnari, Challenge Round’s founder and business manager, told Arab News: “We sometimes have one player, and in this case we help him to either socialize with a new group of friends or, if not, then the game masters gladly help him to enjoy the game.”
Four game masters at the store offer customers advice on games, with tips on rules and tactics, Sunnari said.
Dixit, Games Magazine’s best new game of 2010, is one of the store’s top sellers. It features a group of cards illustrated with dreamlike images. Players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller,” and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. The game was introduced in 2008.
“A friend of mine told me about a fun game that can make people laugh out loud,” Sunnari said. “It was Dixit. I bought it from Amazon, then played it with family and friends, and we had great fun.
“I kept searching for similar games and found this huge industry of board gaming that I wasn’t aware of. In fact, only a handful of people knew about these games in our part of the world, while the industry has reached its peak in Germany, the US, Britain, France, and other European countries.
Sunnari said games could be an enjoyable way of teaching and learning, as developments in “edutainment” showed.
But while video and online games can help us to think more critically and engage with people from all over the world, they also carry the risk of social isolation, and even depression and violence.
“One of the main aims behind this store is to encourage families to find interesting ways of coming together instead of becoming isolated playing video or phone games,” Sunnari said.
“I started buying games and playing them with family and friends at weekends and even on weekdays. After a while, I owned 27 different games. And it wasn’t easy to get them because I ordered them online most of the time. Later my friends and family invited me over and asked me to play these games with them. It wasn’t long before the idea of a board gaming business came to my mind,” he said.
In March, Challenge Round will open a new branch with more space for families to play. “It can accommodate up to 100 people to play games and enjoy coffee and smoothies. And in the next five years, we aim to have our own games events and shows for the people of Saudi Arabia,” Sunnari said.


Steps taken to meet growing demand for Muslim holy water

Updated 54 sec ago
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Steps taken to meet growing demand for Muslim holy water

  • Saudi government takes special measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of the water to the Two Holy Mosques
  • Zamzam water is drawn from a 30-meter well in the basement of the Grand Mosque in Makkah

JEDDAH: The very mention of the word “Zamzam” evokes a feeling of awe in the hearts of the faithful. Zamzam water is considered holy in Islam. 

It is found in a 30 meter well in the basement of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, about 20 meters east of the Kaaba. The water is believed to possess healing qualities, and is treated with reverence by all Muslims.

The Saudi government takes special measures to ensure there is an uninterrupted supply of the water to the Two Holy Mosques all year round, and to pilgrims during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.

In addition to the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Zamzam Water Project, the Zamzam bottling plant operates with a separate mission under the United Office of Zamazemah in Makkah.

Zamzam water is produced by the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Zamzam Water Project, which is operated by the National Water Co., and whose new bottling plant can produce up to 30,000 liters per hour.

The construction of the new plant began in 2014. Originally consisting of two production lines, a third was added in 2017, which massively increased production capacity. With the water being dispensed into 200 milliliter bottles, it means that the plant can produce well in excess of 150,000 bottles per hour. 

The bottles are then distributed to pilgrims upon arrival in Makkah, and, under the Zamzam Water Additional Services program, are also made available near the central area of Makkah’s Grand Mosque and in other holy places, such as Mina and Arafat. 

Two further expansion phases are currently underway at the site, which also houses its administrative center, including the management and marketing departments.

Two weeks ago, meanwhile, the Saudi Shoura Council approved a new project proposal by Arbab Al-Tawaif Establishments. The project will aim to enhance the competence of employees in Hajj and Umrah services. 

It will also look to restructure Arbab Al-Tawaif, and transform its establishments from individual institutions into companies, working to ensure they provide better standards of service to pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia.