Here I set about learning the bead game played all across Africa from east to west - played with a 12 hole board and 48 beads. It is called various names, the most common being Owali or Owari. There are a number of different ways of playing, all of which involve the following :- you have six houses, your opponent has six. You pick up the beads from a house of your choosing (it must be one of yours) and deposit them one by one anti- clockwise around the board, and examine the house where the last bead falls. Depending on the number now in this house, there are different courses of action.

In the best game I found, if the last house is one of your opponents and the number of beads is 2 or 3, you collect those beads. If you collect, then you may look at the next-to-last, and if that satisfies the same criteria, you collect those also. If the last house does not have 2 or 3, no action is taken and it is the other players turn.

This game is very old, I saw it played by old men in Mombasa, Lome, Mali and all countries in between. It is not a simple game, and has distinct beginning, mid-game and end-game strategies. For me, it was a great introduction to people who may not even share a common language with me, but we can still spend an entertaining afternoon together.


While I was there I learned the rules of a Draughts/Checkers-like game pronounced Darmay. It was similar to Draughts, but played on a 10x10 board rather than 8x8. The pieces initially could only move forward (20 pieces to begin with), but if they were in a position to take they could move backwards. If a piece could take, it was obliged to do so. After reaching the opposite end, it turned into a Hawk (like our King) at which point it could move like a bishop in chess, but taking pieces by hopping over them to any space beyond it. Again, if it was possible to take one or more opponents pieces, it was required to do so. Another difficult game - I never played it beyond a very novice level.