Mahdi Abdel Jawad, Professor of Arabic Civilization and Literature, delves into childhood memories and games overcoming social borders.
Playing is an activity that is vital for every child’s development. While playing and having fun, children use the dynamic energy of their bodies as well as their mental capacities. While children play, they start to engage with their environment and at the same time are often required to be creative, especially if resources are limited.
This is why children’s games in Tunisia, the same as everywhere else, vary according to different socio economic, religious, and even climatic surroundings. Games played in the cities differ from those played in the countryside, by the sea or in the desert. Moreover, games are usually inventions of children themselves. Children build toys with simple tools and materials, depending on what is available to them, or make up their own role plays, which function according to rules they have agreed upon.
Similarly, customs, traditions and social values influence the games children play. For example, strict social norms regarding what a boy or a girl should do and how children should behave according to their gender influence children’s playing behaviors and games. Hence, in certain circumstances, and sometimes depending on social background, play can also be determined by geographical area, boys and girls play together in one place and in another, they play separately from each other. Many times boys and girls, who used to play with each other in their childhood, stop doing so when they get older and gender stereotypes start to leave their marks on them.
Girls tend to leave their homes less frequently as they get older, which consequently puts them under tighter social control. At the same time, boys stay outside and tend to play games that require more physical ability as they grow stronger. In this way, games played by boys and by girls start to differ.
Aside from games that can be found all over the world, such as “hide and seek,” marbles and cards, there are games particular to Tunisia, a few of which are outlined below.