All is fun and games at Sharjah Heritage Days


The Traditional Games area shows how Emirati children turned to their
own creativity to entertain themselves in the old days

A unique selection of traditional games and entertainment specific to the Emirati and Khaleeji communities are part of the 18th Sharjah Heritage Days’ (SHD) grand showcase of global cultures, in an endeavour to preserve local traditions and educate the younger generations about it.

The Traditional Games area at SHD is displaying and organising a number of children’s games from the days of yore before videogames and smartphones were available, and young children in the UAE invented their own games and played with toys they created themselves out of the limited materials available.

An elaborate set-up of shelves at the pavilion showcase some of the toys used by children in the UAE, such as spinning tops, marbles, “telephones” made with a string between two tin cans, wooden swords, cars made with tin boxes, makeshift boats and a rattle used by children to play with as well as used by adults to call children during the Hag Al Leila celebration.

“We also organise live games that children play during Hag Al Leila, folk dances and other games played in typical Emirati neighbourhoods at this pavilion,” says Khalid Abdullah Almamary, coordinator at Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH), who is managing the Traditional Games House.

“Mostly, the boys and girls played separate games and the latter had more singing and dancing. Such games not only entertained the children for hours in the days before television and other modern conveniences were available, they also promoted social interaction, behavioural development and inculcated interpersonal qualities in children.”

These games and some of the other interesting ones visitors can still enjoy at the pavillion before the festival concludes on April 10, include:

  • Arabanat Al Yareed: A wooden boat-like frame to play with
  • Al Sabba: A rough “boardgame” like tic-tac-toe played on the ground
  • Al Farrarah: Toys with spinning wheels made by children
  • Al Nashabah: Slingshot
  • Al Barmeel: Barrels children used to stand and spin on
  • Al Karaheeb: Metal cans with ropes that children would step and jump around on
  • Al Qaheef: A hopscotch game
  • Al Merihana: Ropes used to swing on by girls while singing songs

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