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Muslim cleric deals out the deck at first-ever Saudi Arabia card tournament Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Muslim cleric deals out the deck at first-ever Saudi Arabia card tournament

Senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani attended the opening day of event [Twitter]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2018

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Saudi Arabia has kicked off its first-ever card game tournament in the capital Riyadh with a popular cleric in attendance as authorities try to boost local sports and entertainment.
Saudi Arabia has kicked off its first-ever card game tournament in the capital Riyadh with a popular cleric in attendance as authorities try to boost local sports and entertainment.

Thousands of Saudis flocked to attend the first day of the Baloot Championship on Wednesday, which is offering a total prize of one million Saudi riyals ($270,000) for the top four teams, state-run SPA reported.

The four-day event, which was organised by the General Entertainment Authority, has over 12,000 players taking part in the country's first official card game competition.

Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, a senior Muslim cleric, attended the opening day of the event – a move likely taken by authorities to dampen criticism from conservatives.

"Unfortunately I don't know how to play Baloot but I wish everyone luck and I hope there is good sportsmanship," Kalbani told players.

Baloot is a trick card game that is widely popular in the Gulf, especially in Saudi Arabia.

The game, which pits two teams of two against each other, has its origins in the similar French game Belote.

Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes boosting sports and entertainment and allowing women to drive from June

Some conservative clerics prohibit games such as chess and cards even if there is no gambling involved because they consider them to be distractions from religion.

Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social reforms that includes boosting sports and entertainment and allowing women to drive from June.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has led the modernisation drive, despite opposition from religious hardliners.

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an oil slump since 2014.

Saudi Arabia's first cinema in over three decades is also due to open on April 18 in Riyadh after a ban was lifted last year.

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