My quest to read outside my comfort zone in 2019 continues with The Monk of Mokha. I don’t read many biographies, although I’ve read many more over the past year or so, and this one looked interesting.
This is the story of Mokhtar Alkahanshali, a Yemeni American who grew up in an impoverished area of San Francisco. One of many children, Mokhtar had a propensity to get in trouble as a kid, was rather directionless , and working as a doorman when he came across a statue of a Yemeni man drinking coffee. Mokhtar was intrigued, and did a little digging. He discovered that coffee brewing originated in Yemen and, so to speak, a star was born.
Mokhtar became driven to become a coffee exporter, improve working conditions of farmers in Yemen, and hopefully build a profitable business for himself. The first half of the book was about his aspirations, and the plans he put into motion. While interesting, it wasn’t fast-moving.
The second half of the book felt like an action novel. In 2015, a civil war broke out in Yemen, trapping Mokhtar there with no way to get out. The U.S. wasn’t working to evacuate its citizens from the country, and Mokhtar was one of many who were trapped in a very dangerous place. How he made it back to the U.S was nail-biting, even more so because it actually happened.
Interspersed throughout were Mokhtar’s viewpoints on money, what it means to be a Muslim in America, and life in general. I really liked reading about another person’s perspective. I’m so glad I read this book!