Saying that card games in Arab countries are as prevalent as mobile phones nowadays is not a real exaggeration. From the shores of the Arabian Gulf to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, you can find Arabs throwing one card after another in so heated a game that you would think a news agency should report it.
We just love our card games and play them anywhere we can; in cafes, houses, cars, offices (though most managers think we’re brainstorming the next million-dollar-app idea), and every other place in between. So what are these games that are keeping Arabs occupied throughout these centuries? Yes, centuries! It’s estimated that Arabs began playing cards 700 years ago, and never stopped.
Also, they were the ones who introduced card games to the West after learning about them in China, where the Chinese used for something other than games. We will mention below the most famous of these card games in the MENA region.
This might be the most famous card game in Arab countries. It is an Arabic game through and through, developed by Arabs for Arabs (and Tanzanians by some weird, almost impossible coincidence). If we were to write what is Tarneeb and how it’s played, we would need a couple of more blogs like this one, but in short, it’s a strategic trick-taking card game that’s played with a standard 52-card deck between 4 players divided into two teams. It’s a fast-paced, highly-competitive game and you can rest assured that it lasts for hours.
It is unknown if Baloot is based on its French relative Belote, or if it’s the other way around, but either way, no house in the Gulf countries doesn’t know how to play it, and avidly so. This game reached its peak when the Arabic mobile game VIP Baloot was published for Android and iOS. Now, no mobile phone in the Gulf countries doesn’t have the game installed.
Pronounced with a shorter a than “Hand” in English, this game is the Arabic edition of the Rummy games, but some North African countries still call it Rummy. It’s also an umbrella term and has a few variations under it like Saudi Hand and Team Hand. It’s more famous in the Levant area, but is relatively common in the Gulf countries. The pace of Hand is slower than Tarneeb, but once it gets going, loud voices are rumored to have been heard from miles away. It’s probably the first card game Arabs learn in their lives and it will always be linked to happy family times.
This, this is the game that has burrowed its way through to so many houses that have school or college students. It has achieved an enormous popularity with youths and elders have begun to join in the fun. Perhaps its closest cousin is the modern version of the French game Barbu, where also the king of hearts can turn your lucky streak upside down and paint your world in black. It’s a compendium card game, which means that it has more than one cycle in the game. Each cycle is called a “kingdom” because the king is the one that determines which kingdom to play.
These four card games are the most famous in the MENA region. Thanks to technology, most of these games have become mobile games, like VIP Tarneeb for example, accommodating the huge number of players and providing them with never-ending rounds of whatever they want to play. It’s true that card games are just one part of Arabic mobile games, but they’re definitely pulling their weight and more in the market.