About Mbao Games
The peoples of Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and the Comoro Islands call the game Bao Kiswahili , indicating a method of play that originated among the Swahili and Bajun muslims of northern Kenya.
The bao may be simply holes scooped out of the ground or a board carved from a hardwood. In the past, decorated gameboards with a projecting storage hole at either end were prestige objects made by professional wood carvers.
A bao can be a beautiful decorative piece in the house. An art object in itself. When hosting a cocktail party, a bao board can be most useful as a plate for serving peanuts and other bitings and hence becomes a topic of conversation.
The pieces are pebbles or inedible, hard, grey seeds from a thorny shrub. Today, one can also use coffee beans or anything similar in size.
"I recall seeing a board carved out of the natural old rock on an amazing Kopje in the bush in northern Tanzania. Each day, I used to walk to this particular place and look at this bao and notice that the small stones, which were used for playing were always in different positions. The local tribesmen believed, it was the spirits that came out each night to play against each other. It still remains a mystery to this day."