(Beni Amir &
One cycle Single lap
Holes captured during the game
6 holes per row
Qelat is a common name for mancala variants played in western Eritrea.
In Bilén it is the plural of qeltay, the name of the seeds used in the
game. This particular variant is played among the Beni Amir and Mensa
people, mainly by elders and young boys in their leisure time, as well
as by males generally, especially during the period after marriage
ceremonies. The elders often played it for large stakes, such as a
hundred cows or a piece of land.
It was first described by Richard Pankhurst in 1971 as Qelat II (Game
11) who stated that "the counting of balls in the course of play is
A game book written by Merylin Mohr in 1997 gave wrong rules, thus
confusion among American mancala enthusiasts.
Solid Wood Folding Mancala
is played by two players.
The game board consists of two rows of six holes. Initially, there are 4
seeds in each hole.
is a two-directional game played on a twelve-hole board without
pre-designated storehouse holes. As the game proceeds, each player
creates up to six storehouse holes, called waldas.
On each turn, players sow only from one of the six holes on their own
side of the board, but not from waldas. Seeds from the three holes on a
player's right are sown counter-clockwise, whereas seeds from the three
holes on a player's left are sown clockwise. Qelat is a single lap
white, counterclockwise holes. In black, clockwise holes
The object of the game is to capture holes, which is done, as in many
games, by dropping the last ball in any hand into a hole containing
three balls which are thus increased to four. Such captured holes,
corresponding to the weg of other areas, are known as walda, but can be
captured only in certain parts of the board.
The leftmost and rightmost holes on either player's own side of the
board, as well as the outer two holes on the opponent's side of the
board are eligible to become waldas for that player.
Thereafter seeds accumulate in walda(s) from the sowing of both players.
Waldas are not skipped as incorrectly stated by Mohr.
The winner is the player who accumulates the largest number of balls in
Unlike many other mancala games, a player who is unable to move passes
turns until a legal move is available. When neither player can move, the
game is over. At the end of the game, the player who has captured the
most seeds wins.
Pankhurst didn't say how to avoid repetition of board positions. It is
suggested to use the following rule from another mancala game (Mazagebh
I (Game 12)) of the same region: When a player moves a ball across the
end of the board to his opponent's opposite hole the latter player is
forbidden to shift the ball back in the following move.
Mohr, M. S.
(1997) The New Games Treasury: More than 500 Indoor and Outdoor
Favorites with Strategies, Rules and Tradition, Boston & New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company; 101-102.
(1971) 'Gabata and other board-games of Ethiopia and the Horn of
Africa', in Ethiopia Observer (3); 14, 171.
(1982) 'Gabata and other Board-Games of Ethiopia and the Horn ofAfrica',
in Azania: Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, 17;
(1984) The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest
Board Games, New York: Marlowe & Company; 19.
(1979) 'Mankala in Eastern and Southern Africa: A distributional