Why Baloot is so popular with Saudis

Some sources say that Baloot entered the Kingdom more than 100 years ago, and spread rapidly in Saudi society. (AN photo)
Updated 04 April 2018
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Why Baloot is so popular with Saudis

  • Baloot game said to have entered the Kingdom more than 100 years ago
  • People play the game everywhere, during friendly meetings, family gatherings, and weddings too
JEDDAH: For decades, Baloot has been one of the most popular card games among the Arabian Gulf youth, and Saudis in particular. People of all ages play it, but it is mostly popular among young men.
It is similar to the French Belote. Some say it is originally a French game, others believe it is Indian. Some sources say that Baloot entered the Kingdom more than 100 years ago, and spread rapidly in Saudi society.
There are those who say the name of the game came from the English word “plot,” which means a plan or a deal, and this describes how the game is played.
The game has many rules that may slightly differ from one region to another. Players need time to master the game. To play it you need only playing cards, and four players familiar with the rules of the game.
The four players are divided into two teams, two players each. Baloot uses 32 cards only, cards with numbers from 2 to 6 are excluded from the game.
One player distributes 32 cards and each player gets five cards each. The two players facing each other work as a team to win as many high-ranking cards as possible.
The main goal is to win the rounds in which high-ranking cards are played. The players collect cards by “eating” the cards of the opponent.
The game is played by two systems, San and Hokom, and the first is stronger than the second. The systems differ in the way the cards are ordered from strong to weak.
Hamad Al-Harbi, 26, is from Riyadh. He has been playing Baloot for more than 12 years. “The reason for Baloot’s popularity is the availability of playing cards — if you have them you can play — and that it does not need any physical effort or a certain suitable place,” he told Arab News.
“It is not an easy game. The player needs skill and there is a lot of competition and enjoyment,” he added.
Amen Sembawi, 59, from Jeddah, has been playing Baloot for more than 30 years. He told Arab News: “I am extremely happy that finally, Baloot has had the chance to be known internationally. Good players need to be alert, smart and skillful because it is a highly competitive game.”
Sembawi added: “Baloot is very popular. People play it everywhere, during friendly meetings, family gatherings, and weddings too. Each group who usually play together may make their own rules and they are called Bashkah.
“A new player needs first to learn about Baloot rules, watch others playing it, then practice it until he or she masters the game.”
The General Sports Authority announced that Riyadh will host the first Baloot championship at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, from April 4-18.
The top four players will receive prize money totaling more than SR1 million ($270,000), including SR500,000 for the winner.


Major projects, investments worth over $685bn unveiled on Saudi National Day

A photo taken on July 5, 2018, shows Bader al-Ajmi, 38,(L) owner of "One Way Burger" serving customers from his truck at a main street in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Major projects, investments worth over $685bn unveiled on Saudi National Day

  • The private sector’s contribution to the GDP at constant prices doubled to around SR1236.6 million in 2017

JEDDAH: A major economic boost in the form of 10 major projects and investments exceeding SR685 billion ($183 billion) were unveiled as celebrations of the 88th Saudi National Day got under way.
The Council of Saudi Chambers released a report focusing on great economic achievements in 2017.
These projects reflect the Kingdom’s vision under the wise leadership of King Salman and that of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to provide a brighter future through diversifying sources of national income, tackling environmental challenges and increasing investment and prosperity.
The report summarized the most important events and economic developments in the Kingdom over the past year. These include the lifting of the ban on women driving in June, and the establishment of the General Authority for Cyber Security, in addition to the numerous royal decrees providing financial support to Saudis.
It also noted the important decisions related to the Saudi business sector. These include the launch of a private sector incentive program with a value of SR72 billion, the privatization of 10 government sectors and the establishment of the General Authority for Real Estate. The private sector is still showing a strong performance as an efficient partner in the inclusive development process and in the achievement of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision, the report noted, as it contributes 39 percent to the Saudi gross domestic product (GDP).
The private sector’s contribution to the GDP at constant prices doubled to around SR1236.6 million in 2017. There has been increased contribution to GDP from non-oil private sector streams.
The private sector also witnessed an increase in the number of workers, in its capital, in the number of shares on the Saudi market, in the cumulative number of establishments operating in the Kingdom, and in non-oil exports.
Continued growth of the private sector was attributed by the report to the Saudi government’s support. This support comes through initiatives such as the removal of obstacles to financial development, improvements to the working environment and policies adopted to boost investment.
It also reviewed the private sector’s efforts to support diversification of the economy and lower unemployment rates.
The importance of the measures taken to prioritize the employment of qualified Saudi workers over the employment of expatriates in the private sector were stressed, as well as the sector’s role in providing education and health services.