HvWO 009

Antique wooden Bao game board from Oman or Zanzibar (Mancala)

Wooden game board from Oman or Zanzibar

Rare antique wooden game board from Oman or Zanzibar. The wood is probably from a bread-tree (like many Omani doors) The back of the wooden board has seriously been eaten by termite.  Size 80 by 33 cm.

For detailed description including game rules see Ref 1 Ingrams 1931 page 256-258. In Zanzibar the game is called Bao. It is a game played on a board having four rows of eight holes in it with the grey seeds of a shrub that grows on the seashore. Every player has 32 seeds. There are three forms: Kiswahili and two kinds of Kiarabu. Kiswahili is complicated.  The game probably originated from Arabia (Oman) In Oman in its most basic form it is played by making holes in the sand and using camel droppings as game pieces (see Carter ref 2)  The shape of the wooden board is also similar to the Arab school writing board, the top compartment is only used for storage of gaming  seeds.

Bao board Zanzibar


Front of antique Bao / Macula  board from Oman / Zanzibar

Antique Macula board zanzibar

Back of antique Bao board from Oman / Zanzibar damaged by insects


Arab Name: Bao (Kiswahili) / Huwaylis

Period: 1800-1900

Origin: Zanzibar / Oman; From the carving you can see that no modern tools have been used to make this board


    Youtube film explaining the Boa game in Zanzibar


  1. Zanzibar its History and People by W.H. Ingrams p 256-257. Picture of the board on p 257.
  2. Tribes of Oman by Carter page 24  Omani games incl rules
  3. 2014 Throw down the anchor The story of the Muttrah souq by Maxine Burden, centre for Omani dress, Muscat Media Group Page 50 discusses the Omani game Hawalees incl photo that has some similarities to Boa.