Anaheim’s ‘Little Arabia’ neighborhood is finally official

Asem Abusir mixes crispy pastry and cheese with simple syrup, then sprinkles crushed pistachios on top.

He served it to three customers who drove from Los Angeles to his cafe in Anaheim – called Knafeh Cafe after the signature dish from Abusir’s hometown of Nablus on the West Coast – just to eat it. .

After decades of lobbying from Arab-American business owners and activists, the Anaheim City Council on Tuesday recognized a mile-long stretch of Brookhurst Road, including the Knafeh Café, as “” Little Arabia”.

Abusir, who left his job as a computer engineer to open the cafe in 2013, hopes that the name Little Arabia will bring in more customers and promote cultural exchanges.

“Now, with recognition, more people will discover that Little Arabia exists,” says Abusir. “The future will bring the whole community – not just the Middle Easterners – together. It will allow to share the culture of our people. “

Knafeh Cafe owner Asem Abusir makes Knafeh in Anaheim.

Knafeh Cafe owner Asem Abusir makes his signature pastry. The City of Anaheim has officially designated a portion of Brookhurst Street as “Little Arabia”.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Arab-American merchants first began to reside in the area in the 1980s, when it became widely known as the Gaza Strip – a strip of land located in the immediate vicinity of Garza Island. there.

During that time, real estate owner Ahmad Alam encouraged Arab American residents and merchants to live and work in the area he called “Arab Town” through advertisements in The World Newspaper. Arab world.

Brookhurst Street, which once had many seed facades, is slowly being transformed.

For about a decade, young Arab-Americans have elevated Little Arabia’s profile on social media through photographs of falcons, shawarma and thighs of lamb.

Kareem Hawari cooks at his family's restaurant, Kareem's Falafel, in Anaheim.

Kareem Hawari cooks at his family’s restaurant, Kareem’s Falafel, in Anaheim. The restaurant was founded in 1996 by Kareem’s parents, Mike and Nesrine, located just outside Little Arabia.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The Latino city doesn’t have a large Arab-American population. Community activist Rida Hamida is among those who have worked to introduce non-Arabs to food and culture, leading tours of the Arab Minor.

During the pandemic, businesses in Brookhurst struggled at first, but many have recovered.
Rashad Al-Dabbagh, a Palestinian Armenian immigrant from Saudi Arabia, moved partly to Anaheim to be closer to Arabian Minor.

“It’s my home away from home,” said Al-Dabbagh, 41, founder and chief executive officer of the Arab-American Citizens’ Council, which promoted the Little Arabia’s naming. “As an immigrant, you come to this country, and if you don’t have a community, this is where you live.”

For more than two decades, the name Little Arabia has never appeared before the City Council. Some mayors have previously argued that Anaheim is too diverse for part of it to be named after an ethnic group.

A poll conducted in 2021 by the Center for American Immigration Policy at UC San Diego in collaboration with the Council of Arab American Citizens found that 58% of registered Anaheim voters support the designation of Little Arabia. .

In May, Mayor Harry Sidhu, who opposed the appointment, resigned amid a federal corruption investigation.

Board members who ended Sidhu’s rule required assistance from two other colleagues to put an item on the meeting agenda.

Several proposals, including Little Arabia and a study of the Brookhurst Street corridor, were soon put before the council.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Jodie Mosley was one of the few residents who opposed the designation of Little Arabia.

“If you specify a [cultural] community, you will discriminate against others,” she said. “I believe in diversity. If it doesn’t include all cultures, isn’t that the opposite of diversity? “

Nader Hamda works at his family's restaurant, Forn Alhara, in Anaheim.

Nader Hamda at his family’s restaurant, Forn Alhara, in Anaheim.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Councilman John F. Moreno, who put the proposal on the agenda, said the aim was “to include a recognition of the intrinsic value of the history, culture and place Little Arabia has for Anaheim. For our city to say, ‘We see you, we’ll name you and we’ll be proud to do this’ is very important. “

Before voting in favor of Little Arabia, council members determined its boundaries.

Moreno advocated for a 2.5-mile stretch of designated Brookhurst Street between Crescent and Katella avenues. They eventually settled on the narrower borders between Broadway and Ball Road.

Cheers resounded throughout the council rooms.

“It took an entire village to make this happen,” said Amin Nash, a researcher at the Arab American Administrative Council. “It took a lot of hands, a lot of organization and a lot of sacrifice.”

The organization wants to contact CalTrans about erecting a sign on Interstate 5.

With the vote, Little Arabia joins other officially designated ethnic regions in Orange County, including Koreatown in Garden Grove and Little Saigon in Westminster and Garden Grove.

The City of Anaheim has officially designated a roughly one-mile stretch of Brookhurst Street as Little Arabia.

A stretch of Brookhurst Street in Anaheim will now officially be called Little Arabia.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Anaheim may be the first city in the US to recognize an Arab business district, according to the Council of Arab American Citizens.

Pasquale Di Dodo, owner of the famous Italian Market Cortina, now finds his restaurant within the official boundaries of Arabian Minor.

Di Dodo said of Cortina’s, which opened in 1963. “We were there before Little Arabia was an afterthought, ‘It would be great if they recognized all the businesses from different ethnicities’.

At the same time, a number of Arab-owned businesses lie outside the new boundaries.

Nader Hamda, right, works at his family's restaurant, Forn Alhara, in Anaheim.

Nader Hamda at his family restaurant, Forn Alhara, in Anaheim, may be the first city in the US to recognize an Arab business district, according to the Council of Arab American Citizens.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Kareem’s, a Palestinian restaurant founded in 1996 by Kareem Hawari’s parents, Mike and Nesrine, is located just outside Little Arabia, as is Altayebat Market, a cornerstone of the area.

Hawari hopes city-commissioned research on the area can be used to support boundary expansion.

Mike Hawari, who passed away in 2012, believes in the idea of ​​Little Arabia and will be excited to see it happen.

Kareem Hawari said: “For the older businesses that have started the whole movement for Little Arabia to be recognized, this moment is truly humbling. Anaheim’s ‘Little Arabia’ neighborhood is finally official

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