The Monk of Mocha

The biography of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni migrant in the United States, is a mixture of two main features of any Yemeni narratives, namely migration and coffee. Mohammad Al-Kumaim describes the character of this migrant, who became a subject in a novel entitled "The Monk of Mocha"(*) as following:
This novel speaks of the true struggle of a young Yemeni-American “Mokhtar Alkhanshali” who managed to rise from the worst and poorest neighborhood in Tenderloin, California, and achieve self-made success and fortune by trading Yemeni coffee. He also was able to elevate the value and price of Yemeni coffee to international heights. However, his accomplishments would not have been possible without his ambition and thirst for adventure, nearly killing him more than once.

The hardship of living led him to work at a young age. He worked as a valet at a small parking lot, then as a salesman at a car lot, then as a shoes and clothes salesman, then a grocer, and then he worked at a gas station, and finally as a doorman in a large building that was adjacent to a statue of Yemeni-Ethiopian man drinking coffee. This statue was the epiphany moment of Mokhtar’s dream, which he sacrificed his university education for as he dedicated all his time to learning about the coffee trade. He apprenticed in cafes and institutes to master the skill of tasting and vetting coffee. He is now a renowned coffee sommelier, knowledgeable in the history of coffee, its trade, its types and genres, varieties, and the methods of making coffee and roasting the beans. He became knowledgeable in the countries of its cultivation, the ways of cultivating the coffee bean, and the various methods of picking it, drying it, separating the center from the peel, and distinguishing the different layers of the core. He also became familiar with what enhances the quality of the coffee bean and what reduces it. However, Mokhtar was not felt enough with what was said above, so he sought to learn the ways of trading coffee beans, its prices and the key companies that export and sell coffee. He also got to know the top American and international cafés that have mastered coffee making and expanded its flavors range. All this became possible through his attendance at various international seminars, conferences, and festivals all around the world where coffee and all its relevant issues are its main focal point.

After his arrival to Yemen in 2015, Mokhtar set out to collect as many samples of coffee as he could from the different regions of Yemen famous for their coffee farming. He took them back to America to test them and familiarize himself with their qualities. With these results, he returned to Yemen to export tons of high-quality coffee beans, making him a huge profit and restoring to Yemen its glory and reputation in coffee production and export. He succeeded and accomplished what he dreamt of. But along with his ambition came many great risks and dangers that he encountered in Sana’a, Aden, Yarim, Mocha, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and American airports. The high stakes made him believe in the necessity of bringing peace to his country “Yemen” because the ongoing civil war for eight years and till now has caused many losses to all Yemenis.
This compelled him to make a plea to all Yemenis through his shirt that read, “MAKE COFFEE NOT WAR”, and to combine his practical business dream with his ethical duty to his country “Yemen”. He hoped one day to change Yemen’s image in the minds of Americans and other westerners through his work, and through everything, he will accomplish in the future and those others will accomplish relating to Yemen.
(*) “The Monk of Mokha” a book first published in English in 2018, was written by Dave Eggers, an American writer, editor, and publisher born in 1970. The book was first translated into Arabic by the Yemeni translator and poet “Abdulwahab Al-Maqaleh” and published by Dar Madrak Publishing in Riyadh, 2019.

The Arabic article was published by:

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