Outsmart, outplay: 3rd Baloot Championship begins in Saudi Arabia

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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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This year’s winners will go home with SR2 million. (AN Photo/Fahad Al-Zahrani)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Outsmart, outplay: 3rd Baloot Championship begins in Saudi Arabia

  • 40 female groups will participate for the first time

JEDDAH: The 2020 Baloot Championship is underway in Riyadh with over 18,000 players participating. 

For the first time, 40 female groups will participate in this, the championship’s third edition, that commenced on Thursday, Feb. 13, and will continue on until Feb. 22.

Organized by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) and supported by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), this year’s winners will go home with SR2 million ($533,234). There are 600 judges monitoring the teams.

In 2018, the first every Baloot Championship took place under the patronage of the GEA with 2,000 participants. The winners received a prize of one million Saudi riyals.

Many apps of the popular game are available to download on Apple Store and Google Play, with over 2 million downloads. 

Believed to have been brought to the Hijazi region from Indian immigrants through trading routes during the time of the Ottoman Empire, the origins of the game could also have come from France where it’s known as “Belote” and migrated during the Ottoman Expansion in the region.

The objective of the game is to outsmart and outplay your opponent. For decades, Baloot has been one of the most popular games in the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Men and women alike have played the game in which four players are divided into two teams, two players each. The rules are strict and straight forward. The game uses 32 cards, includes the Joker card and excludes the numbers 2 and 6. There are two systems, Hokom and San, with the latter being the strongest set.

The key component of the game is to constantly be vigilant, no speaking allowed and players must keep a poker face.
 


Documentary reveals the history of Saudi Arabia’s battle against diseases

The Health Ministry has managed to incorporate treatment for nomads with no fixed address and the millions of pilgrims arriving every year, providing them treatment, including surgery. (SPA)
Updated 30 May 2020

Documentary reveals the history of Saudi Arabia’s battle against diseases

  • ‘War on Disease and Epidemics’ highlights a number of health campaigns run by the Saudi Health Ministry
  • (Fifty years ago) Saudi Arabia withdrew more than $37.3 million from the country’s key source of income — oil revenues — to help health care workers protect people against sicknesses

JEDDAH: The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) recently released “War on Disease and Epidemics,” a documentary produced by the Ministry of Media more than 50 years ago that tells the story of the Saudi government’s efforts to preserve the health of its citizens and expats since the Kingdom’s inception, beginning with a focus on tuberculosis in the early 1950s.

“First, the country was divided into 10 semi-autonomous regions where hospitals, health care clinics and research centers were established. In a short time, these regions were provided with all the necessary medical equipment to detect diseases and fight them wherever they were found,” the documentary says, explaining that medical treatment was provided to everyone in Saudi Arabia for free at that time:
“(Fifty years ago) Saudi Arabia withdrew more than SR140 million ($37.3million) from the country’s key source of income — oil revenues — to help health care workers protect people against sicknesses.”
Within a year, mobile medical units traveling around the country had taken 20,000 X-rays in hospitals and health care clinics. Thanks to early intervention, the number of tuberculosis cases in the Kingdom dropped and those infected were quarantined at hospitals established in cities with lower average temperatures, such as Al-Sadad Chest Disease Hospital in Taif.
After controlling tuberculosis, the Health Ministry began to intensify its efforts to deal with malaria. Agents were sent out to spray insecticides on ponds and wells where mosquito were likely to lay their eggs, and a dedicated malaria center was established, to which people were asked to immediately report suspected cases.
“When a person was suspected of being infected, a sample of their blood was taken and sent to the regional laboratories. When confirmed, the Health Ministry provided them with the necessary drugs straightaway,” the documentary says.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Thanks to early intervention, the number of tuberculosis cases in the Kingdom dropped and those infected were quarantined at hospitals established in cities with lower average temperatures, such as Al-Sadad Chest Disease Hospital in Taif.

• In 1957, the Kingdom established one of the world’s biggest quarantine centers in Jeddah, at a cost of $4million.

The Darah documentary goes on to highlight a number of other campaigns run by the ministry, including a poster campaign that helped it reduce rates of the contagious bacterial eye infection trachoma.


It also explains how the ministry managed to incorporate treatment for desert-dwelling nomads with no fixed address and the millions of pilgrims arriving every year. The ministry established a number of mobile medical camps that provided treatment to them, including surgery.
And in 1957 the country established one of the world’s biggest quarantine centers in Jeddah, at a cost of SR15 million ($4million).
The film also highlights the government’s efforts to care for the mentally ill. The Mental Health Hospital in Taif opened in the early 1960s and is now one of the Middle East’s leading mental health care facilities, according to the documentary.
Today, Saudi Arabia has succeeded in making an integrated health system in accordance with the best international health practices, providing health care to over 31 million Saudis and expats in a fair and accessible manner. Its services also extend to the millions of worshippers who come for Hajj and Umrah annually.
The country has also become a leading health destination for sophisticated surgical procedures, such as conjoined twin separations. Dozens of such treatments have been carried out on children from around the world with the Saudi government footing the bill.