The sound of the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer and me, the infidel, to morning coffee. I'm in Kuwait City (Kuwait) and it's a cool and breezy winter dawn. Winter here means you can run in shorts and T-shirt while the old folks at home look outside and are tempted to postpone their morning run till noon.
My hotel is near the beach in a portion of central Kuwait City that looks like a horn protruding to the north into the Persian Gulf. I run by the ruins of an old rampart that seems built out of crumbling desert sand, wait for a gap in the busy morning traffic, cross a large street and reach the boardwalk. There's a northerly wind and so I go north, mindful of a precept I learned in my sailing days: run your first tack as tightly into the wind as your boat will allow. On your way back everything will be easier with the wind astern, and you can get back to shore in no time at all.
Running feels much like sailing around here. The palm trees are like mast shrouds, thick green guitar strings where the wind plays its tunes. The waves break and my nostrils fill with the familiar smells of the sea. The boardwalk is so wide that the noise of the city is far to my left. I'm heading toward a small commercial port. Red light to starboard and green light to port, though, wrong... if I don't come about soon I'm going to beach this vessel, I joke to myself as I pick up speed. Now the wind comes from behind, because I've reached the northernmost point of the horn and made a wide southward turn. I meet a few people but no runners, not one. I meet pensive walkers in their desert mantles, Indian immigrants working on the beaches, a few veiled women walking alone. I wave at everyone and everyone waves back.
I gaze beyond the bay and sure there's a narrow, yellow stripe of coastline. I'm at the edge of the Arabian Desert and I'm looking at the outskirts of Mesopotamia, where it all began. Just beyond that coastline I see flow the embattled rivers of Babylon...
Now I'm running in an area of ministries and embassies. Large buildings, heavily protected, armed guards at the gate. A huge ministry of planning. A lot of planning for such a little country... The soldiers have submachine guns and I'm not sure I should be running here. I raise my hand slowly and say hello. They wave back. I keep on running.
The fishermen's port really brings back memories. The long boats have a long rod for the harpooner to hang on to while braving the waves, just like the old Mediterranean fishermen's boats. The men I run into here don't smile and don't wave back. They've been up since two, I know, and now they're back from sea. They'll be toting heavy loads for the rest of the morning and I can't blame them for glaring at this grown-up foreigner who still finds the time to play.
Giorgio Pogliano’s morning coffee doesn’t come in a cup, but he can still find it everywhere. Running each morning is his daily “coffee” – it gives him the surge of energy, something good to reflect upon during the day, and a reason to look forward to tomorrow. Just like the different types of coffee found around the world, Giorgio finds different surroundings as he runs.