As the sun goes down on a Friday evening in Dubai, a few hundred Pakistani men congregate to watch the latest round of traditional Kushti fighting. ‘Welcome to the international Kushti stadium of Dubai’ laughed one man, looking at the patch of desert wasteland before us. Nestled between the Deira Fish market and a busy roundabout, some of the crowd has travelled from far to watch just over one hour of sparring before sunset.
Hailing from a 3,000 year heritage spanning India, Pakistan and Iran, Kushti fighters traditionally adhere to strict training programmes, focusing on maximizing their sporting prowess and living a pure life where diet is strictly controlled to maximize muscle and drinking, smoking and sex are banned. It is steeped in tradition with a mystical and philosophical heritage.
Back in the ring of sand, the referee, an elderly man with a colourful stick enters the circle and starts gesticulating and shouting in Urdu for the fighters to present themselves. Prospective fighters in traditional Pakistani robes come forward from the crowd dancing and jumping to huge applause. Sparring partners are then matched at which point the men change into bright coloured underwear. A musician playing the bag pipes creates a carnival atmosphere, and the fighting begins with huge cheers from an excited crowd.Back to Projects