Did you know that more than 200 versions of mancala are played throughout the world? From Ghana to St Lucia, elderly men, young children and anyone with a little leisure time, will be sitting under a shady tree strategizing like mad using seed pods, stones or bottle tops as counters. I grew up playing bao (a popular version of mancala in Southern/East Africa) and have played it with village chiefs, fishermen, housewives and school children in numerous countries and settings. It's a lovely ice breaker and less strenuous than a game of soccer in the heat of the day.
The ancient Egyptians played Senet, one of the world's oldest board games, a Backgammon forerunner. A lovely painting in the tomb of Egyptian Queen Nefertari depicts her playing Senet, it dates back to 1295 BC. Apparently, the original rules were passed along verbally, because no written form has been found. Of course Egyptologists and others have tried to figure out ways to play, and now you can even download a Senet app to your iPhone.
Traditional African board games are great fun to buy as a souvenir when you're traveling in Africa. Many of Africa's traditional board games are strategy games, the forerunners to checkers, backgammon, and tic-tac-toe. The beauty of these games is that they can be created using pen and paper, or stones and dirt. So if you can't make it to Africa to buy one, and Amazon only carries mancala sets, have no fear because they're easy to make yourself. Find out more about traditional board games in Africa including bao, fanorona, morabaraba, mancala, senet and more.