Perhaps the most popular board game in Syria, backgammon occupies a distinct place in the social life of Syrians. People played the game at home, cafés, and sayrans (nature outings). Boards are usually made of wood and playing pieces are traditionally made of bone. Historically, Syrian artisans excelled in making luxury backgammon boards of inlaid wood with various materials and diverse geometric shapes. This box, inlaid with coloured wood, bone, and mother-of-pearl, is a particularly elegant example from the 19th century. Combining boards for various games — backgammon, chess, and checkers — the intricately ornamented box also has drawers for the dice and pieces along its contours, suggesting modern design influences. Yet, the geometric patterns of its polychrome decorative panels and frame represent the peak of a design tradition that evolved across the Islamic world from as far back as the 15th century.
On loan from the Royal Ontario Museum; Gift OF Mr. Denis Slattery, 978.273