This is not specially a nomad Arab game - in fact, it is more commonly played in towns than in the desert - but it seems to be a basic game, widely known in Africa, from which local variants are derived.

Sija Board

It is played on a board of twenty-five squares (i.e. five rows of five hollows scooped in the sand), each player having twelve counters known as dogs (i.e. twelve pieces of stone for one player and twelve pieces of brick, or other distinguishable matter, for the other).

The counters are not set out on the board in a predesignated order, but the player who wins the toss places two "dogs" where he likes, the only restriction being that the middle square of the board must be left vacant. His opponent then "throws" two counters into any unoccupied squares other than the middle one, and so on, alternately, until the board, except for the middle square, is full, as shown in the diagram. This "throwing" is of course done with an eye to the succeeding play and is as important as the deal at Bridge. Play is continued by the winner of the toss moving one of his counters into the middle square. If, thereby, he can bring one of his opponents "dogs" between two of his own, he "eats" it, i.e. removes it from the board. In the diagram, as shown, by moving the counter O to the middle square, the player "eats" both X1 and X2. His [Page 139] opponent then moves, "eating" or not, as he is able, and so on, alternately, until one has completely destroyed the "dogs" of the other and is therefore the winner. "Dogs" do not move, or eat, diagonally, but only along ranks or files.

Last update January 6, 2010