Female Baloot players show off their skills at Saudi championship

More than $500,000 prize money is up for grabs at the tournament. (AN photo)
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Updated 17 February 2020

Female Baloot players show off their skills at Saudi championship

  • Six rounds were played on day two of the Baloot Championship, 520 teams with two rounds for women

RIYADH, JEDDAH: Female Baloot players have been taking part in the second day of a tournament being held in Riyadh Front, with the inclusion of women’s rounds being seen as a boost for female enthusiasts of the card game.

Six rounds were played on day two of the Baloot Championship, 520 teams with two rounds for women.

The game is believed to have been brought to the Hijazi region from Indian immigrants through trading routes during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Its origins could also have come from France where it is known as Belote and migrated during the Ottoman expansion in the region. The objective is to outsmart and outplay your opponent. 

Four players are divided into two teams, with two players on each. The rules are strict and straightforward. 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. Baloot uses 32 cards only, cards with numbers from 2 to 6 are excluded from the game.

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PHOTOS: Women join men at Saudi Arabia's Baloot Championship in Riyadh

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Jawaher Al-Mansoour, a 24-year-old law student, said she was excited to be taking part.  

“I’ve just completed the first round, I can say that the atmosphere is a very professional one, everyone is understanding and there are no tensions between players,” she told Arab News. 

She learned the game alongside her friend, Deema Al-Mutairi, six years ago  and plays almost daily. “When we heard of the championship last year, we got excited but we weren’t able to participate because there were no female teams at the time,”Al-Mansour added. 

“We registered as soon as we heard that females were allowed in this year’s championship and though we weren’t taken that seriously by our friends and families, we made it to the next round and are looking forward to reaching the end, hopefully the SR2 million ($533,333) prize.”

It took her two years to learn the game correctly, playing with her brothers and father to hone her skills. Al-Mansour is keen on helping to teach the game to other women who want to learn.

Her friend, Al-Mutairi, is also a law student. She learned baloot from her older sister who is an avid player and then continued learning the tricks of the game with school friends.

“I enjoy playing the game and especially with my group of friends,” she told Arab News. “We’re nine friends altogether and play rounds. This is how I perfected the game and I’m excited to participate in the championship. I’m striving for the SR2 million prize, it’s what we’re here for.”

Both players said that many young women were keen to learn how to play the game, with the duo helping them out. 

Baloot has been one of the most popular games in the Gulf for decades, and Saudi Arabia in particular.


Work begins on project to document all aspects of Saudi art and culture across the Kingdom

Updated 26 February 2020

Work begins on project to document all aspects of Saudi art and culture across the Kingdom

  • The project is believed to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom in terms of exhaustiveness and diversity

RIYADH: Work has started on an ambitious initiative to document all aspects of Saudi culture across the Kingdom’s 13 regions. With its “13/16” project, the Ministry of Culture aims to highlight the nation’s cultural diversity and rich heritage by constructing a record of all forms of local art and culture.

The project, which includes the establishment of a visual library of cultural activity recorded in photographs and videos, is believed to be the first of its kind in the Kingdom in terms of exhaustiveness and diversity.

Teams of researchers familiar with 16 identified aspects of Saudi culture will visit all 13 regions — hence the name of the project — to photograph and film artists and creators and their work. The art forms and cultural activities in each distinct society that will be documented include theater, music, film, performing arts, literature, visual arts, architectural design, heritage and language.

The ministry has drawn up a year-long research plan covering all Saudi regions. It will begin in Riyadh region and end in the Eastern Province, passing through Jizan, Makkah, Al-Jawf, the Northern Borders, Qassim, Hail, Asir, Al-Baha, Najran and Madinah along the way.