The Alchemist (Coelho)

what was the most important lesson that santiago learned during his first year in Africa

The first time when he was robbed, when he had to work for the merchant in order to get enough money to go on his

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Although it is certainly up for debate, I would suggest that the important lesson for Santiago was simply that he does not "control" his own fate as much as he would have previously assumed. There is really nothing he could have done to avoid getting robbed (without the assistance of hindsight), so it is up to him to be adaptable and humble with regards to his particular situation.