When you get-together with family and friends and want to have intimate and digital-free entertainment, board games such as Pictionary, Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, Twister, and Snakes and Ladders are brought out. Although we live in a digital age where digital or online games are a way of life, card or board games haven’t been completely wiped out and are still relevant especially during road trips or outings like picnics or camping.
In Sudan, where digital age hasn’t progressed much, card and board games are still quite popular and well-liked. However, card games such as UNO, Blackjack, Solitaire, Kalooki (or Conan) are more popular than board games.
Now, a new edutainment card game has been launched, aimed at Sudanese communities around the world to test their knowledge of Sudan and its history. DOMA is a Sudanese trivia game launched this summer by 41-year-old communication and development specialist, and recent entrepreneur, Dalia Mohammed El Roubi. Not only is DOMA about Sudan but it’s made in Sudan, by Namoosa and sponsored by investment holding company, Haggar Group.
Named after the well-known African dom palm fruit (or gingerbread fruit), DOMA consists of dozens of cards, each with a question (and answer), in both English and Arabic. The questions cover all things Sudan and even the most knowledgeable may not know all the answers. But whether you win or not, you’ll walk away knowing a lot more about Sudan than you ever did.
El Roubi is already working on the second edition of DOMA, which is expected to come out at the end of the year. 500 Words Magazine spoke to entrepreneur and developer El Roubi about what inspired it all in the first place.
What inspired DOMA?
I had been working with the UN for 16 years and was gradually feeling the urgent need to shift my thinking. Being struck with bouts of ‘compassion fatigue’ and philosophical questions about whether I was really contributing to the development of society, with a permanent place in the UN, made me quit my job and go home.
I had reached a stage where I was asking myself what I was doing with my life. I am a passionate workaholic and a 9 to 5 job fed that need for structure and discipline. But at some point, I felt that this was distracting me from the things I really wanted to do with my life and for Sudan. DOMA was the most recent of my ideas and came as a result of me playing trivia with my 14-year-old daughter. As she asked me questions about countries and places that were far from our daily lives, I began to wonder why we don’t have such access to information about Sudan. I have been extremely lucky in seeing incredible places and meeting wonderful people across this country and have always wanted to pay tribute to that feeling and to my home. No matter how much I spoke of Sudan and its greatness, I always felt it fell short of really capturing the immensity of its greatness. DOMA is my tribute to Sudan, and it makes information and knowledge on Sudan, accessible to millions of people who are not so lucky to travel the way I have within the country. I also wanted my children to really be able to remember the bits and pieces of information about their country and motivate them to always feel proud of where they are from.
Tell us the story behind the name, DOMA.
I was looking for a word that is authentically Sudanese and as a child eating Dom and other local produce was extremely common. I am from a generation that did not snack on crisps or chocolate (except on summer holidays to Europe where I devoured those, of course). So, words like Doma, Duga, Gongolez and gurasat nabag were just there. I noticed that not only has eating these things dramatically reduced, especially in Khartoum, but also that these produce that is so good for our health, economy and pride, along with many other cultural practices was fading.
DOMA is also a word that can be pronounced easily and my husband who does not like to curse, uses it when he is very frustrated at someone not understanding him.
What do you hope to accomplish with DOMA?
I hope to revive a sense of pride in who we are, remind us all of the greatness of this land and the immense opportunities we have. I also want, whoever plays DOMA, to leave it feeling positive, hopeful and wanting to learn more. Knowledge is a much-needed weapon today and is, unfortunately, fading with this generation. I also want to encourage cross-generational human interaction and promote conversations that are otherwise absent. When the youth and children leave Khartoum, to go to the villages they are from, or when diaspora come to Sudan, they spend so much time struggling to find common topics of conversation and may end up complaining about Sudan or just filling the space with negativity. I hope that DOMA can help fill that space and allow people to share positive stories and information about Sudan. I also hope that the many expats and visitors who visit Sudan can gain more positive information about the country, and that is why it is in both Arabic and English.
Walk us through the production of the cards — research, financing, cost, marketing — both pre- and post-production.
I am blessed with incredible friends from all walks of life that are joined in a common love for Sudan and I decided to capitalise on this and make the process of production as participatory as possible. I sent my friends a message asking them, ‘If you could ask five questions that you think everyone should know about Sudan, what would they be?’ I gave them a three-day deadline and my inbox was flooded. The diversity of my friends made it easy to get the diversity needed in the topics and it was inspiring to see how much love was in those questions.
Those questions formed the category base of my card game as it was crucial that the questions in the game had geographic, ethnic, religious and gender balance.
I then did the necessary research for the answers and with the help of my children, made the questions lighter and easier for their age group to enjoy. Once I had my confirmed list of questions and answers, I had two groups sit together and play the game to see how easily it could be played and edited accordingly. I then took them to Professor Fadwa Taha of the University of Khartoum to verify the answers before taking them to the government entity in charge of patents and copyrights for final endorsement.
My friend, Musaab Sahnoon, prepared the design for the decks. I took the sample decks to some private sector companies, who I hoped would help in sponsoring DOMA as free giveaways but that was not so easy. Instead, Haggar Group, who had instant faith in the product, offered me the seed money for the first deck. This way, I could continue to produce DOMA as mine once the initial decks were sold and, as you can see, it has all worked out.
At only 200 Sudanese Pounds, I believe DOMA is quite affordable. How did you arrive at the pricing of the cards?
This was through the hard work of Samah Dagash, who wrote the business plan for DOMA and really worked these numbers out. We struggled to keep it at a low price, and to be honest, I do not think it is cheap. I wanted DOMA to be affordable to everyone and with the economic situation in Sudan, this price is not as low as I wished it to be.
Today’s world is digital. Have you considered making a digital version of the game?
The essence of this game is to encourage human interaction, eye contact, joined laughter and real conversation, and having it digitised at this stage is not in line with why DOMA was conceived. That being said, I understand that one day DOMA may be digitised since this will encourage a wider reach and will serve in promoting the knowledge aspect of the game.
Many of the card’s questions are about women in Sudan. Was that intentional?
Surprisingly, while researching some questions, the answers coincidently involved women. For example, during my research I realised that the first athlete to internationally represent Sudan and the designer of the first Sudanese flag etc. were all women. That being said, I think that we come from a very strong female heritage. Sudan took the lead in Africa, and the Arab region, when it came to political female participation and I wanted to reflect that. Knowing the progressive history of Sudan will help the future generation of women and men, to continue the legacy of gender equity and protect the decline in the status of women in Sudan today. To know that we come from such wealth, will help in persevering our plight to help Sudan thrive again.
What were some the challenges you faced producing DOMA?
It was difficult to sum up all the topics in one deck. There are so many more questions to be asked and that is why I decided that DOMA will be regularly renewed so as to cover the breadth of information still waiting to be revealed.
Besides the second edition of DOMA, are there any other projects you’re working on?
I am preparing similar local and regional projects related to edutainment and hope to share more details on that soon.
What was important in the process of producing DOMA was that it was created by Sudanese people from A-Z. Not all of them were my friends and some I had not even met in person. These people felt inspired by this celebratory game and wanted to be a part of it because we all share this love for Sudan and I will forever be indebted to them.
Want to play DOMA and learn more about Sudan? You can now find it at various stores in Sudan including Zinc, Dabanga, Mojo Gallery, Lesamin, Someet Gallery & Cafe, Al-Hawi, Impact Hub Khartoum, Muna Supermarket, The Ranch, Al Housh (Omdourman) and Pixel (Bahri).