Three Cups of Tea

by: Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

Haji Ali

As the leader of Korphe, Haji serves as one of Mortenson’s most important guides in the region. He teaches Mortenson both through his advice and by explaining to Mortenson the Balti culture. For instance, Haji teaches Mortenson about the customs of Northeastern Afghanistan, helping Mortenson to understand how he should communicate with people in the area to earn their support. Perhaps more importantly, Haji teaches Mortenson to build relationships in the Balti fashion, rather than barging ahead as Westerners tend to do. Haji repeatedly emphasizes sacrifice and patience, as when he tells Mortenson that they can wait to build the Korphe school until after the bridge is built. These teachings become crucial to Mortenson as the book progresses. They make him more effective at dealing with locals in the region, making Mortenson a more effective director of the CAI and resulting in more schools being built. Haji’s legacy continues even after he dies, in the enlightened attitudes of his son, Twaha, who vows to honor his father’s teachings, and in his grand-daughter, Jahan, who becomes a prime example of the CAI’s success in providing education for girls.