Unbreakable: How the Middle East is Tied to Western Gaming

Published December 23rd, 2020 - 11:48 GMT
Unbreakable: How the Middle East is Tied to Western Gaming
Just as the Middle East has provided developers with ideas, those in the West are now inspiring change in our region. (Shutterstock)

The Middle East has been influencing Western culture for centuries. Although many of today’s sociological studies focus on the Westernization of the Middle East, we can’t forget that ideas and innovations flow in both directions. Look back through history and you’ll find plenty of examples where Middle Eastern culture seeped into the Western world. For instance, in Medieval times, Persian philosophers such as Al-Ghazali were a major influence on European thinkers like Maimonides. The Islamic Golden Age also spawned advancements in mathematics across Europe, specifically in the fields of algebra and trigonometry.

Moving beyond academia, the Middle East has left a physical footprint on the West. Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine was a standard medical textbook in Europe throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Works of art, literature, and agricultural technology all traveled from East to West during the Middle Ages. Yet, reciprocal ties don’t stop there. The Middle East is still influencing the West just as much as the West is influencing the Middle East. For example, the casinos of Egypt and Lebanon have taken their cues from gaming hotspots such as Las Vegas and London.

Middle Eastern Casinos Start a Trend

Casino du Liban in Lebanon opened its doors in 1959 and, today, it’s still the only gambling venue in the MENA region. The initial aim was to blend East and West. Arabic décor provided the perfect backdrop for a Middle Eastern experience. But, in a bid to welcome visitors from around the world, the owners hosted various international acts. The most iconic event was Miss Europe which took place inside Casino du Liban from 1960 to 1965. Not only was it a first for the event, but it also showed the world that Middle Eastern casinos could do gaming and entertainment as well as their Western counterparts.

In fact, the ties between East and West are as strong in gaming today as they’ve ever been. Even a cursory look at the leading online casino sites shows how the early innovations by Casino du Liban et al have influenced today’s market. For example, the online casino Royal Panda has more than 1,000 slot games. Search through that database using the keyword “Egypt” and you’ll find 17 slots, including Doom of Egypt, Gems of Egypt, and Coins of Egypt. Broaden that search to include other keywords such as Arabia and the number of results increases dramatically. Each game draws influence from the Middle East. From the sound of zithers to iconic backdrops such as the pyramids, these slots transport players in the West to what they see as faraway lands.

The Emergence of a Digital Relationship

As it has been throughout history, this isn’t a one-way relationship. Online casino developers in the West have been taking inspiration from the Middle East, that’s true. However, there are now online casinos making a mark in countries such as Israel and Lebanon. The growth of online gaming in the region can, in some ways, be linked to the proliferation of smartphones. According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in MENA almost doubled between 2014 and 2019. From an estimated 86 million users, the region now has more than 174 million people using smartphones. Within the next five years, that figure is set to surpass 200 million thanks, in part, to the introduction of 5G technology.

With more people accessing the internet via their mobiles, the market for all forms of online gaming has increased. As per Newzoo’s 2019 Global Games Market Report, the Middle East market is growing at a rate of 25% per year. Wrapped up in this digital gaming revolution are online casinos. This takes us back to the longstanding links between East and West.

Just as the Middle East has provided developers with ideas, those in the West are now inspiring change in our region. Yes, the influences and innovations might be different from what they once were. However, what endures is the symbiotic relationship between the Middle Eastern and the West.

By Kianna Gould

The views/opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Al Bawaba Business or its affiliates.

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