Last night, at around 10 pm, I had the weirdest urge to go running.
I know what you’re thinking: That can’t be safe, Tricia!
But, as difficult as it may be to believe, Salmiya is the first place I’ve ever lived in where I’ve felt safe running after dark, especially on a Friday night. Kuwait may not have much of a conventional night life, seeing as clubs are illegal and drinking is banned, but Kuwaitis are still night owls. Shops and eateries, small and big, are mostly open until midnight (or all night), streets are well-lit, and the people here are happy to shop and eat until early in the morning. Whereas in Topeka, when the clock strikes midnight, you generally only find people out drinking, and there isn’t a huge crowd of fun-loving twenty-somethings (haha… looking back on my Topeka bar experiences, a more apt generalization would be approaching middle-age, should-be-spending-their-disability/unemployment-checks-on-something-more-useful, sound-a-little-too-rehearsed-in-their-off-key-karaoke-hits, leather-jacket-clad, as they say in Almost Famous, real Topeka people).
On that note, there is a real effort being made by the up-and-coming generation to revitalize Topeka’s cultural/ night life. The good folks at 785 are a huge part of that effort, and I love them for it.
Back to my point! Since Topeka is more of a family-centric city than anything else, there are few people outside of their homes once the clock strikes 9 pm. In Kuwait, it’s much more normal to take the entire family out and be out until late. There are safety in numbers (and well-lit streets), so I am completely comfortable running on a weekend night here (sure, people stare at me, especially men, but that comes with the territory of living as a foreign woman). For the first time in my life, I’m living in a city, not a suburb, and I’m understanding the thinking of a friend I have from working at Med-o-Lark, Emily, a Brooklynite who was terrified of small Maine towns. At the time, I found her fear a bit laughable, but I can see why she would take comfort in the company of complete strangers. On the flip side, there’s something unnerving about being in a sleepy small town where shops close early, people go to sleep early, and if you happen to be out walking from the glow of street light to street light, there’s not another soul to be found. I’m sure that it depends on which area of Kuwait you’re in, but where I live, there are plenty of souls to be found when out and about at night.
The atmosphere of Friday nights is particularly enjoyable. Friday is set aside as the Muslim holy day. Shops are closed all morning, until about three in the afternoon, when families get out of the mosques. It’s normal for families to spend the entire day together, so Friday night is a time for them to sit on the beach with their grills and shisha pipes, go walking, and just be together, in the company of dozens of other families doing something similar.
As I ran for what became about 6.5 miles last night (I had no intention of this being a long run- it’s just that the atmosphere energized me and kept me running, wanting to see more), I stopped now and then to take some pictures. I am so fortunate to live where I do. I am a five minute run from a walkway that hugs the coast all the way from Salmiya to Kuwait City, so maybe five or six miles one way? Whenever I run, I run on this walkway. The views it offers, when there’s not too much smog in the air, are fantastic. Plus, there are bathrooms, water fill-up stations, and vendors (including Starbucks!) posted at convenient locations.
I think that Friday night runs are going to become a tradition. Passing person after person on the trail, dodging kids riding their bicycles , seeing men fishing, witnessing older men playing dominoes on park benches, smiling at couples holding hands, smelling shisha in the air- I loved it. There may come a day when I have local friends to relax with on a Friday night and be a part of the Friday night positive atmosphere, but until then, I’ll at least be a witness to it.