In the 17th and 18th centuries Mukha was famous as the center for exporting coffee grown in the Yemeni highlands (the coffee being given the name Mocha in the west). It was once a sprightly, whitewashed, cosmopolitan city spreading around a crescent-shaped bay, with superb buildings, palaces, mosques, coffee-houses, open squares and caravanserais capable of accommodating vast camel trains.
Before the 17th century sources are scarce.The anonymous Greek seafarer who wrote the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, probably around AD100, describes the trade between Egypt and India and mentions the region of “Mouza” and of course Mukha is mentioned by the tenth-century Yemeni historian Al-Hamdani.
Visiting the port in 1616 on the Nassau, a senior Dutch merchant, Pieter van den Broecke, wrote that the “famous trading city is adorned with mosques and beautiful houses” and by 1618 the Dutch and British East India companies have set up permanent “factories” or trading stations there. The French, Belgians and Danes) and ultimately, the Americans) followed, as coffee drinking began to spread, and gold and silver poured into the city in payment for the exports.
Dominating the centre of the harbour front was an impressive governor’s palace flanked by the Great Friday Mosque (still seen today) with its imposing minaret used by sailors as a navigation mark as they made for harbour. Beside the central jetty were a weighing house, a toll-house for the payment of import-export duties and warehouses. Also, there were large numbers of flat-roofed merchants’ and administrators’ houses built of stone and brick, as well as, smaller rectangular mud-and –reed houses of Tihama style strung out around the bay on the outskirts of town.