Games and Sports of the Desert Peoples (by Adam Goodwin)

Games and Sports of the Desert Peoples

by Adam Goodwin | 2014 | Last Updated: May 2, 2014

Sahara Desert

For the past few days I was travelling through the Sahara Desert. Albeit for some illness, the trip was absolutely fantastic and unbelievable! From sand dunes to crystals to coming face-to-face with a white desert fox, the trip was very fun. The trip was also very educational.

We had an opportunity to learn some of the traditional games, songs, and culture of the desert peoples.

Some Games

Some of the spelling may be slightly inaccurate.  Some of the traditional names may be translated through multiple languages and cultures over many, many years.  In addition, different regions may have different names for similar games/sports.    Some of the games we learned about/tried/experienced.  Approximate pronunciations are in brackets.

  • Tides (tide-as): a game of sticks and stones;
  • Tabliant (table-ant): a form of play-wrestling between boys/males.  It is not necessarily about competition/winning, but rather about playing and socializing; and
  • Temse (team-see): the goal is to make another person(s) laugh through the use of a funny/entertaining story.

The Slap Game

Now, for the most entertaining game we got to participate in with some of the desert peoples we met during our time in the Sahara Desert.  They called it the slap game.  I am sure they don’t say this in their language (albeit Arabic, French, etc), but this is how it was described to us.  The game is fun and easy, yet can be played for hours.

One stands at the front with his/her back to the group.  He/she puts his right hand over his/her right eye.  His/her left hand is placed on his right elbow with the palm facing outwards, away from the body.   A few players stand behind him/her.  One will slap/touch/wack/hit the person’s hand.  As soon as his/her hand is touched, the person can turn around and look back to guess who touched his/her hand.  If the person guesses correctly, the person who touched then becomes the person to stand at the front.    As the game progresses, people start hitting the hand harder and harder, and trying various tricks to confuse the person trying to guess.  For instance, someone may tackle/wrestle (‘tabliant’ from above) the person who is it to dis-orient them while everyone in the group has time to re-organize.  The it person may be up there for a few tries before they have a successful guess.  The more that play, the harder it becomes to guess.

A Call to Action

Out of all the games we learned, the Slap Game was definitely my favourite.  The next time you are with a group of friends, try the game.   Many good and funny memories with a simple traditional game from the desert peoples.

A sobering thought. In 1,000 years, what will future generations (if humans haven’t shot ourselves out of a species by then) think of our generation for making other cultures and civilizations “modernise” and thus losing their culture, traditions, and origins?    How can we integrate traditions and allow those wishing to live by traditional customs still be able to thrive in a vibrant society?

Further Reading

Based on your reading of this blog post, you may also be interested in: Okanagan Elite Athlete.


These are one person’s thoughts and opinions.  We welcome your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with us via social media.

Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom and virtually in Canada, and is a proud introvert and silent leader. He has travelled to nearly 50 major and global cities around the world, and has worked with universities, consulting firms, and sports organizations. He has family and friends in Canada and around the rainbow nation’s only home. Follow his travels, work, projects, and thoughts on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog (click on the bottom right-hand corner to sign up for weekly email notifications).



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  1. The slap game (believe it or not LOL) was so much fun !

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