Baghdad: Every Ramadan night, after eight o'clock, young people gather inside coffee shops and parks to play Al Mahibs - a common Ramadan sport in which two teams hide rings in their hands, asking the other team to guess which hand holds the ring.

"It is the first time since 2003 that people are playing this Ramadan game. It has strengthened brotherhood among Iraqis," Ammar Al Qaragoli, a university student, told Gulf News.

At the end of the game, the members of the two teams get together to have sweets and soft drinks to further enhance the spirit of sharing.

"The era of sectarian violence that we've previously experienced has become a joke," Habib Al Saffar, a Shiite from the Al Karada neighbourhood, told Gulf News.

He said he plays with the Sunnis from the Al Sayyid-iyah neighbourhood.

Having a good laugh

"When Al Karada loses, we laugh and say 'the militias' lost, and when Al Sayyidiyah loses, we say 'Al Qaida' have lost'," Al Saffar said in a lighter vein.

At times, a game of Al Mahibs can last several days. Competitions are organised by the Baghdad Province Council between various Shiite and Sunni neighbourhoods, to promote the sport and a feeling of brotherhood.

"I like to participate in the Al Mahibs Cup competition because it fosters social reconciliation and I want a game to be organised between Shiites and Sunnis from the Al Amel neighbourhood, which has witnessed maximum violence," Tarek Al Lami, a 45-year-old veteran of the Al Mahibs game, told Gulf News.