SIDON, Lebanon: Tuline Sleiman carefully tears the paper slot, praying to win a small toy or some money, while Mohammad al-Sann looks on, waiting for his turn. Inside old Sidon, among small shops and vendors selling homemade sweets and “Bint al Ghazel” - cotton candy – one sweets shop owner is trying to make children smile with a simple game using a cardboard box.
The “draw” is a game dating back to the 1970’s that consists of a box wrapped in brown paper with numbered slots. The player chooses a number and tears the paper back, hoping to win a small gift. Some are empty and others have chocolate, candy or small toys hidden inside.
“The game is old,” Issam al-Sous, the 75-year-old shop owner, told The Daily Star. “Chocolate and candy companies used to make them but they stopped 20 years ago. So now I do it myself.”
Sous DIY game, made of a rectangular cardboard box with paper and lined with 55 slots, is slightly different from the old commercial version. Unlike the past set-up, Sous hides a gift in every slot. “It’s a game of luck but children can’t lose," he said. He used chocolate, candy, small toys, rings and money, varying from LL250 ($0.16) to LL1,000 ($0.66) as presents. “It’s up to the kid to choose a specific slot and win.”
The entire set up costs Sous LL17,500 to make, but children have to pay LL250 to play.
Tuline carefully tears a slot with her finger and wins a small present. “I paid LL250 to play but won LL1,000 worth of presents,” she told The Daily Star. However, she plays again, hoping to win chocolate or candy this time. Nawal al-Baba, a 6-year-old girl, closes her eyes while tearing the slot open. She was hoping to win a toy but got a piece of chocolate instead. As she did so, Mohammad waited his turn. He said he hoped to win a ring so he can exchange it with Tuline.
“We used to try our luck when we were kids, and we would win a piece of paper that stated what you won: a toy, candy, chocolate,” 45-year-old Mariane Shamia told The Daily Star of her memories of the game as a kid. “We called it a tombola, but it was for the poor. But we were satisfied with whatever we won.”
Sous is rushing to supply his shop with a second box, saying that the holidays bring more children to play.
"I love it; it's a game that brings joy to children's hearts, even with small toys."