Iraqis of all sects and ethnic groups have been playing al-Muhaibis — or Mhebis, in Iraqi dialect — a game based on finding a hidden ring. It is thought to date back to the palaces and guesthouses of the Abbasid caliphs (750-1258). Now, playing Mhebis is mostly limited to the holy month of Ramadan, as today Iraqi children and youth, like their contemporaries almost everywhere, prefer to play online games or spend their free time on social media.
The Ramadan tradition is to sing “Baghdadi songs” — folkloric pieces native to and long sung in Baghdad and later elsewhere in the country — while gathering to form Mhebis teams. The competitors consist of two teams, each numbering some 50 players. One of the several referees conducts a draw between the two teams to see which one will start the game. Two people from the starting team then volunteer to shield their captain with a sheet or some other item, so the opposing team cannot see him as he walks among his players and puts a ring, typically belonging to one of the players, into the hand of one of the team members. The captain then says, “Baat,” signaling that the ring is in someone's possession, and the captain of the other team can begin looking for it.