In all of Hawaii, Jasmin Hassan El-Gohary, owner of Mirage Art & Coffee in Honolulu, stands alone. Hers is the only shop that offers Saudi or Turkish coffee and serves Arabic food. Born with a multicultural background to a Saudi Arabian father and a German mother, she uses everything that makes her and her business stand out to promote understanding across cultures and break barriers that separate people. The former dentist declares that humans have similar desires in life — to live, eat, and seek personal fulfillment. To this end, in 2017, Dr. El-Gohary created what she describes as a cool, eclectic, intercultural venue that has a spiritual vibe, promotes art, and where people can experience a little Arabian culture.
After earning her Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1988 from Northwestern University Dental School in Evanston, Illinois, then practicing as a dentist for nearly a decade in Saudi Arabia, Dr. El-Gohary decided to change careers and use what she deems as one of her most valuable skills: bringing people together. At Mirage Art & Coffee, she enjoys interacting with customers while drinking coffee with them and opening their eyes to any number of items and experiences available in other parts of the world that they may never see or recalling the familiar with well-traveled customers who indeed have experienced her own culture. She opened the business with the added intent of showcasing the visual arts because she is a lifelong gifted artist influenced by her father, who was an artist and a well-known surgeon. One day, a friend told Dr. El-Gohary that she would do well with a coffee shop that merged all her passions, and she took the advice to heart. She has been featured in various published articles, including in Kaimuki-Kahala, volume two, in 2022.
Dr. El-Gohary attributes her success to her persistence and the belief that she has something good to offer. Her upbringing was also a key influence in her life. She credits her father highly for being a modern-thinking Saudi Arabian man married to a German woman. Dr. El-Gohary grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in Saudi Arabia in what was a very strict environment. As a child, she was extremely artistic and had to beg her school principal to let her practice her art even though her art teacher told her parents that her creative skills were at the college level.
As a young adult, Dr. El-Gohary was not permitted to pursue the career she wanted. Only the medical or educational fields were open to Saudi females at the time. Therefore, as the first woman in Saudi Arabia to receive a scholarship, she enrolled at Northwestern University and became a dentist. Dr. El-Gohary says she enjoyed helping people as a dentist, but she disliked the job stress, the fear she witnessed from patients during their office visits, and the limitations the profession placed on her creativity.
While expecting her second child, Dr. El-Gohary, a self-professed free spirit, left dentistry and refocused on her first love of art by enrolling in art classes. She progressed to painting watercolors with Arabic subjects, finally feeling more connected to her gift, which she used to celebrate and share her culture with others. She then studied oil painting in France, Italy, and the United States and later traveled with her growing family to sell her paintings at various events before selling them at home and offering prospective customers coffee and food, a precursor to her current business. In the coming years, Dr. El-Gohary wants to strengthen her network to help her business perform better overall, expand events, and attract more of the public to her coffee shop, because she believes there are still many people who want special places to connect with others.