A mountain-climber whose failed ascent of K2 leads him into a small Pakistani village, where the locals help him recover. In return, he vows to build them a school. He completes the school and goes on to build many more in Pakistan and Afghanistan, founding the Central Asia Institute. Throughout the book he becomes a husband and a father. He is known for his big heart, courage, shyness, and disorganization.
A fellow member of Mortensen's K2 expedition team with whom he rescues climber Etienne Fine. After the rescue, Darsney and Mortensen are separated.
Mortensen's humble and skilled porter on the descent from K2. When Mortensen becomes lost, Mouzafer devotedly searches for and finds him. Mortenson eventually helps build a school in Mouzafer's home village, Halde.
Greg's younger sister. Affected by acute meningitis when she was young, Christa forever struggled with basic tasks and suffered from seizures. Greg helped protect and teach her. When she died at 23 from a seizure, Greg pledged to climb summit K2 in her memory. When Greg sees how people in Korphe struggle with daily life, he thinks of Christa patiently trying to overcome her personal obstacles, and he is inspired to try to help.
Greg Mortenson's mother. She founded the International School of Moshi and worked as a high school principal in Minnesota. Mortenson credits her with his appreciation for the value of education. Her students were the first to donate money to Mortenson's cause, which inspired the Pennies for Peace project.
One of the leaders of Mortensen's K2 expedition team.
One of the leaders of Mortensen's K2 expedition team.
A member of Mortensen's K2 expedition team who has a pulmonary edema and must be evacuated by his team members. The evacuation is brutally exhausting for the team, especially Mortensen and Darsney, who are too tired and ill to attempt to climb summit K2.
One of Mortensen and Darsney's porters on the K2 descent. Unlike Mouzafer, Yakub tries to use CAI's school in his village to elevate his own status by demanding to be in charge. Mortensen and several others talk him down, bluffing with dynamite. As punishment for his greed, the village makes Yakub sweep the school grounds each morning without pay.
Village leader of Korphe and mentor to Mortensen. The book's title comes from a Balti saying Haji Ali shares with Mortensen to explain that their devotion is strong, but it comes only with patience. He encourages Mortensen to listen and learn, rather than dictate and assume.
Son of Haji Ali who speaks some English. He and Mortsensen become friends and discuss women.
Haji Ali's kind and strong wife. She is the first Balti woman to directly shake Mortensen's hand.
Irvin "Dempsey" Mortenson
Mortenson's father. Born in Minnesota during the Great Depression, he was nicknamed Dempsey for his large size as a baby. He went to the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship. He married Jerene while in the Army and developed a love of travel while stationed in Japan. Dempsey worked to establish the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Tanzania's first teaching hospital.
A doctor and fellow climber, Tom Vaughan took interest in Mortenson's efforts.
A Pakistani shop owner who is inspired by Mortenson's cause and teaches him how to use a computer so Mortenson can type fundraising letters for the school in Korphe.
An anesthesiology resident at UCSF Medical Center where Mortenson worked as a nurse after his first trip to Pakistan. Mortenson and Marina grow close, but his poor and transient lifestyle while he is fundraising is difficult on their relationship. When he returns from Korphe, Marina breaks up with him.
A wealthy scientist and former climber who provides Mortenson with $12,000 for the school in Korphe after only a telephone conversation. Hoerni also provides money for the bridge to Korphe so the supplies can be transported. Hoerni and his wife become close with Mortenson and Tara, particularly as Hoerni gets ill. He is very proud of his role in building the school, and Mortenson pushes to finish it and bring back pictures before Hoerni dies.
The chokidar or watchman at Mortenson's guesthouse in Rawalpindi. Abdul helps Greg bargain for the school supplies and helps him become a "real Pakistani" by getting him a nice shalwar-kamiz and even polishing his sneakers.
A tailor in Rawalpindi who makes a new shalwar kamiz for Mortenson when his rips. He also teaches Mortenson how to pray in the Shiite Muslim way.
Mohammed Ali Changazi
Trekking agent and tour operator who organized Mortenson's ascent of K2. Mortenson goes to him to coordinate logistics for building school in Korphe after he has made it to Skardu.
Bishop meets Greg Mortenson at an event honoring mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary. They form an immediate connection and are married within six days. They have two children, Amira and Khyber.
Amira Eliana Bishop
Greg Mortenson's and Tara Bishop's elder child, a daughter, born in 1996.
Originally George McCown's chaperone in Balti, he becomes Mortenson's bodyguard.
Khyber Bishop Mortenson
Greg Mortenson and Tara Bishop's younger child, a son, born in 2000.
Haji Ali and Sakina's granddaughter, who graduates in the first class of educated women in Korphe. CAI pays for her medical education.
A commandhan in Baharak, whom Mortenson is suggested to contact by the exiled king of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah. Mortenson will later work with him on building schools in the Wakhan Corridor.
Mohammed Zahir Shah
The last king of Afghanistan, who reigned from 1933 to 1973 before being ousted in a coup. He returned from exile and was given the title "Father of the Nation" in 2002.
Three Cups of Tea Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Three Cups of Tea is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Haji is a corrupt local official. Haji explains that Mortenson deal with the Balti in a certain manner if he is to be successful. He does not want a school for girls because it is against his interpretation of Islam.
That is because he showed Abdul a green nylon sock filled with hundred dollar bills. He had enough money to build a school. Abdul says that tomorrow they will bargain for all the resources needed to build the school.