Study Guide

Haji Ali in Three Cups of Tea

By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Haji Ali

Chief Haji

Haji Ali is the nurmadhar, or chief, of Korphe village. His kindness—taking Mortenson into his home, feeding him, and wrapping dirty Greg Mortenson in "the finest possession" (3.4) in his house, a plush silk quilt—is what prompts Mortenson to search for a project to repay the man. You don't get to be the chief of a village by being a fool, and Haji Ali might just be the wisest man in the mountains.

Mortenson says, "I was always amazed how, without a telephone, electricity, or a radio, Haji Ali kept himself informed about everything happening in the Braldu Valley and beyond" (10.45). The reason he's able to do this is because he doesn't need these things that Mortenson recognizes as lifelines to the world. His people have survived for hundreds, if not thousands, of years without these conveniences.

To this end, Haji Ali has to convince Mortenson that his (Mortenson's) ways are simply different, not necessarily better, and in order to make progress, the two cultures have to find a compromise. Plus, as a bonus nugget of wisdom, he utters the wisest line in the book to Greg Mortenson: "Sit down. And shut your mouth. […] You're making everyone crazy" (12.88). Sadly, Haji Ali dies, but his memory lives on with Mortenson, and his son, Twaha, helps take over his legacy.

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