City Life – Lyari during FIFA World Cup

My friends have been telling me how Lyari gets transformed during FIFA world Cup for many years. I stayed away from the area due to my own misconceptions. I regret that now but still wonder wonder how it would have been during peak gang wars time which by the ways seems like a distant memory, a nightmare, in present day Lyari. These days Lyari is all about football, world cup and South American teams, Brazil the most favorite, Neymar the most idolized.

This world cup is set to be one of the most memorable. There have been great performances and upsets. Mbappe’s arrival on world stage, De Bruyne’s range of passing, Coutinho moving out of Neymar’s shadow, Sorry look on Ramos’ face have been personal favorites. Watching Brazil in action in Lyari trumps them all. Watching Neymar score was cherry on top.

There are many options to watch football in the city. There are fancy air-conditioned cafes in Gulshan, Clifton and Defence. There are screens setup in Malir but none of these places offer what Lyari does. You feel the genuine passion for football in the atmosphere there. You see scores of flags – fluttering in sea breeze – of nations contesting in world cup. You see flags painted on the walls. There are only two portraits though; that of Messi and Salah, Neymar absent surprisingly. You find people donned in their favorite jerseys at whatever time you go. Brazil being favorite and Neymar’s jersey being most common.

There are several places to experience World Cup euphoria in Lyari. Mombassa street, Ali Muhammad Mohalla, Gabol Park and Cheel Chowk are one of few options. I have been to Mombassa Street and Ali Muhammad Mohalla since they are set deep inside residential quarters giving insight into communal living in Lyari also.

Mombassa Street is in Baghdadi area and is named after port city in Kenya. Lyari is home to Sheedis who migrated from Africa to coastal areas of subcontinent centuries ago. You can still find people who speak Swahili or have memorized few lines even if they don’t understand its meaning. Mombassa in Kenya has a sizable population of traders who originated from Karachi and other coastal areas of subcontinent. There are mosques and streets there that will remind you of home. That’s the beauty of port cities. They become a melting pot of different cultures and traditions, making its denizens appreciative of diversity.

The street has been painted with flags and screens are setup on both ends during the matches. You have to find your way through the crowd. Usual business comes to standstill and everyone in the street gets hooked as soon as the match starts except for one tailor who keeps working aloof to all the excitement around him. I wonder what is his story?

Ali Muhammad Mohalla is the other favorite. While rest of Lyari has been peaceful for sometime, Ali Muhammad Mohalla has witnessed shootouts in recent past. The troubled history of the area and election activity has been sidelined though for the World Cup festivities. Unlike Mombassa Street, Ali Muhammad Mohalla has two communal spaces in near vicinity both of which are being used for screening the matches. The colors of street become vivid as the sun sets and screen gets sharper. More and more people join the crowd some of them bringing dhols. As soon as someone beats the drum, crowd gets euphoric, some of them starting to dance. You can feel the adrenaline rush as you become part of the crowd. Indistinguishable despite you big city attitude.

Lyari is receiving attention for the right reasons after many years. Let’s do our bit in helping Lyariites sustain it. Long Live Lyari! Long Live Karachi!

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Categories: City Life

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