Ask most people what mocha means and they’ll instantly reply ‘coffee’ or ‘Starbucks’. So it’s somewhat ironic that Al-Makha, the original coffee port, is one of the few towns on the planet without a branch of Starbucks or its ilk. In fact, Al-Makha doesn’t have a lot of anything these days – except flies and heat.
The history of Al-Makha stretches way back to the days before Islam (and Starbucks), but its heyday was during the 17th century when it became the world’s foremost coffee-exporting centre and had a population of some 20,000. Nowadays it’s a forlorn and windblown town of a few hundred hardy souls who make their bread and butter through fishing and smuggling. Africa is only a hop and a skip away and the chaos in Somalia as well as Yemen provides an endless source of income for the unscrupulous. Alcohol, weapons, drugs, consumer goods and, most disturbingly, people all enter and leave Yemen through this narrow back door.