Wrestling in Deira
Kushti which dates back more than 2,000 years in Pakistan and India, has reached a new peak of popularity amongst the South Asian expatriates in Dubai, taking place every Friday evening between 4.30pm and 6pm. A sandy lot in the district of Deira is transformed into a traditional wrestling ring where the fighters are ready to fight. Most are Pakistani or Indian, from the cross-border region of Punjab, where kushti is a beloved pastime.
As the sun begins to set, spectators sit on the ground and begin to form a perfect circle, to listen to the ringmaster and watch the scantily clad wrestlers donning yellow, red, or even floral-patterned loincloths. Once the match starts, the fighters will engage in a tight embrace for around 10 – 15 minutes until one is overpowered and falls to the sand.
The winner is the first fighter to pin his opponent's shoulder to the ground. The rules are simple - no punching, kicking or biting.
The winner is declared when a fighter manages to pin his opponent to the ground on his back. If the fight starts going over 20 minutes, the referees declare a tie. The winner of the bout then takes a victory lap around the ring. As the fighting champion shakes hands with his supporters, they are shaken down for donations.
The matches in Deira are casual and fought as exercise or entertainment. There is no entrance fee or formal payments for those taking part, although wrestlers are allowed to tour the crowd after a bout to collect donations.