Bowling in Saudi Arabia


He is reaching his thirties now but he is still known as the youngest bowling player in the Eastern Province and perhaps in Saudi Arabia. He is Yousif Aldulaijan who is now board member at the Saudi Bowling Federation.

Aldulaijan spent his childhood, teen, and adulthood between the alleys at Alqosaibi Bowling Center where his picture is still displayed in the entrance of the hall to inspire all young visitors. Although he is doing his MBA at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Mineral and working at the Gulf Bank, he continues to spare time for bowling.

“I just love bowling, I go there to relax, have fun, and meet the players. We are all like family here even my father — an old bowling fan. He still visits a lot to play and watch new generations having fun,” he said.

He said bowling is a sport that goes back to the ancient Egypt era, it has been played for more than 5000 years, its one of the oldest sports in history, yet the game was developed and became one of the most played sports for all age group. He added, “It became more than rolling a ball toward wooden pins, it became a major sport globally and gained prestige, influence, and presence.”

Four decades ago, bowling was born in Saudi Arabia. It has evolved distinctively and uniquely in comparison to other sports in the country. It has a heritage and a rich history that defines the way it looks today.

What makes bowling different, he said, is that it emerged within the Saudi culture and lifestyle in the form of entertainment in the 70s. He believes it has transformed into a competitive sport for the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia in addition to its role as an entertainment destination.

Bowling, he said, started to become popular in the last quarter of a century due to national participation. The Saudi Bowling Federation was established in 1989, to govern the sport of bowling locally and represent the country in the global bowling scene. It got off to a great start, and the Saudi bowlers traveled the world and won medals and championships.

In the early 2000s Talal Altwireb achieved a significant milestone when he won the third place in the AMF World Cup in Latvia, and he serves today as a board member of the Saudi Bowling Federation.

Bader Al-Shaikh, the president of the Saudi Bowling Federation, was also one of the greatest bowlers in Saudi Arabia history, said Aldulaijan. “Al-Shaikh is a talented bowler who earned his spot in world bowling as a fierce competitor from 2002 till 2017 with over 25 medals and championships and was ranked third in the AMF World Cup in Slovenia in 2005, and in the 2006 Asian Games, he won two gold medals and two bronze medals, in addition to other international, Asian, Arab, and GCC achievements with the national team.”

The Saudi bowling has evolved significantly, he explained, and it continues to grow as a national sport by hosting local and international competitions, and through paving the way for youth to develop through elite training programs and providing best in class coaches, which will lead to great achievements by Saudi youth bowlers.

One of the notable examples, he said, is Abdulrahman Alkhelawi. “He is a young bowler with the spirit of a fighter.” Alkhelawi has won medals and championships, and he was tough to beat, even by the great bowlers. He delivered GCC, Arab, Asian and world medals with a hard to beat performance. “We believe that he will continue his success as a Saudi national bowler and he will bring home more achievements,” said Aldulaijan.

Meanwhile, as bowling can be entertaining for recreational players, it's stressful when competition is concerned, he said. “Even if you see bowlers calm when they step on the lanes in preparation to make a shot, the tension is boiling within them. Bowling is a sport that requires accuracy, composure, mindfulness, and stamina. The national elite bowler must be at the top of his form physically and mentally and he needs to have the ability to handle the pressure in tournaments.

“Bowlers can be subjects for performance-enhancing drugs to handle the demanding nature of the game. And we are proud that our national athletes in the Saudi Bowling Federation comply to the Saudi and world anti-doping laws an regulations.”

Last but not the least, Aldulaijan added, they will continue to improve bowling in the country and create the vision of a bowling ecosystem where it can attract citizens and residents to the sport and provide a top-class environment for entertainment and competition. “We also believe in empowering Saudi female athletes and creating a new solid ground for them, to enable them to contribute to the success of women in our country.”