The press of travel (from Kurdistan to Vienna to Beijing to New York) and business has, for the moment, delayed my putting together a more thoughtful reflection and analysis of my time in Iraq. As I noted in my previous blogs from the Edge of Globalization, the landscape in Iraq is much more varied than most people imagine. The attached picture (me looking through the window of a Blackhawk helicopter) shows what most people think about when they imagine the Iraqi landscape.
As this picture of the mountains near Dohuk (taken by Miguel Cruz and used with his permission) shows, parts of Iraq are breathtakingly beautiful. Mountains have always played an important role in the life of the Kurdish people. You recall that the Kurds fled to the mountains when Saddam Hussein turned his wrath on them following his defeat in Desert Storm. Mountains are such important geographical and symbolic figures in Kurdish life that there is a saying: Kurds have no friends but the mountains.
As beautiful as the Dohuk area is, I also noted how lovely the drive was from Erbil to Sulaimaniyah. This part of Iraq is mountainous and green. It’s easy to understand why Kurdistan is a vacation spot. In fact, if the Kurds can maintain security and the rest of Iraq gets a handle on the insurgency, tourism could add millions of dollars to the Iraqi economy. This country has such a long and proud history and there is much to see and admire here.
Not only do I enjoy seeing new places, I enjoy meeting new people. One of the more interesting people I met during this trip was Jason Araghi, President of Green Beans Coffee. This picture was snapped just before we climbed aboard the Blackhawk helicopters shown above (which explains the helmet and flak vest).
Jason’s story is interesting itself. His company provides coffee for military bases, but that is not what he set out to do. This is how his company tells the story:
“During a business trip to the Middle East, Jason Araghi had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring Saudi Arabia its first gourmet coffeehouse, and opened the Art Nouveau Cafe in 1996. U.S. Army personnel at nearby Eskan Village caught word about the new coffeehouse, and soon after, invited Jason to open a cafe on the US Army base. Within months of operating at Eskan Village, the Air Force extended an invitation for a further 3 locations at the Prince Sultan Air Base, in Al-Kharj KSA. Today, GBCC Inc. serves military personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Djibouti, Africa. The company has not only grown in locations, but also in its mission to support our men and women in uniform.”
Jason, of course, is first and foremost a businessman and is out to make a profit, but his commitment to the troops goes deeper than simply providing them with a good cup of coffee. Green Beans Coffee mission statement is unique:
“Every corporate mission statement reads like a litany of values too good to argue with, yet too ordinary to matter. Not ours. Our 10-year heritage of supporting those that put their lives at stake for our country is firmly rooted and non-negotiable. That heritage of caring is the foundation of our operating philosophy. At Green Beans Coffee Worldcafè, we:
- Believe that community is cultivated over a cup of extraordinary coffee or tea, as it has been for generations all over the world. Our stores are a place where community happens.
- Honor the brave men and women whose courage and sacrifice for liberty can never be measured, only remembered and revered. We strive to provide a refuge of peace and tranquility in some of the world’s most dangerous places, and donate a percentage of our sales to organizations that aid troops, their families and their communities.
- Celebrate diversity in our products, our causes and our people because variety is the spice of life.
- Search the globe in our quest to offer the highest quality coffees and teas, seeking out organic options whenever possible.
- Support sustainable solutions, recycling, re-inventing and reusing resources in our operating practices and store design.
- Commit our collective brainpower, expansive optimism, outstanding good humor, zealous sense of adventure and passionate devotion to superior coffee to the good of our community and our customers.
We invite you to join us in our mission to build a sustainable world community together.
One of the reasons that Jason and I got along so well is that we are both trying to find ways to foster sustainable development and we are both optimists. There is much to be optimistic about in the Kurdish portions of Iraq.