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Aug 31, 2009
Wrestling For The Masses by Jamil Khan
It was 5pm on Friday when an elderly man started watering an open space in the car park near Dubai’s Fish Market, using a plastic jar filled with seawater. He was preparing the site for the weekly sub-continental bouts of the traditional form of wrestling widely known as ‘kushti’ and ‘pehalwani’.
The site has been used for this major sport event every Friday evening for over eight years, to provide spectators with a chance to witness a couple of competitions between the pehalwans and fill their weekly off-day with enjoyment.
The majority of spectators hail from Pakistan, and work in different parts of the UAE. Among the roughly estimated 4,000 spectators, many are from India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are often present to enjoy the bare-handed competition between the wrestlers.
Although the Dubai Municipality has placed a ban on these events, so far, no officials have reportedly tried to stop an event or imposed a fine to implement the ban.
Ilyas Pehalwan, who has been supervising these events for the past 35 years, claimed that they had settled the issue with the officials after negotiations to provide recreational facilities for the people. This particular focus is due to the fact that the audience mostly consists of labourers, who have very limited options for making their weekly day off a memorable one.
Video Report from The National Newspaper