In Los Angeles, Arabs put 'Little Arabia' on the map

"The most important thing to us is saying, 'We are part of Anaheim,'" said Rida Hamida, director and co-founder of the Arab American Civic Council. (Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Times)

Only a few miles from California’s Disneyland sits a string of Middle Eastern restaurants and shops backed by the state's Arab American community affectionately called, "Little Arabia."

Activists and business owners that support "Little Arabia" are campaigning for the strip to be recognized as a destination by tourism officials, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

"The most important thing to us is saying, 'We are part of Anaheim,'" said Rida Hamida, director and co-founder of the Arab American Civic Council. "You have Disney, the Honda Centre, the Angels, and you also have Little Arabia."

The push has already yieded positive results. The Anaheim/Orange County Visit and Convention Bureau agreed to put Little Arabia on its visitors guide.

"What I've seen of it, it has some great restaurants that I got to enjoy and a community that's trying to build something there, so that's exciting to see," said Jay Burress, president and chief executive of the convention bureau, after his visit to Little Arabia last month.

The civic council is also preparing a new website and brochure to attract visitors.

The community’s biggest goal is to put in place an official designation for Little Arabia and an accompanying sign on the free-way.

The group’s efforts, however, are receiving some back lash.

Some residents complain that the special designation would hurt other ethnic pockets in the county’s largest city of Anaheim.

Esther Wallace, chairwoman of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council, said she objects to Little Arabia garnering an official designation.

"There's only one ethnic group that's being promoted and that's the Arab American group," Wallace said. "We don't have a Little Mexico or a Little Korea. All the pressure seems to be on putting a Little Arabia out here, and I don't see why."

Other complaints revolve around the influx of hookah lounges.

Some critics believe the area isn’t developed enough yet to be a tourist destination.

"We're not ready to do a grand opening yet for Little Arabia because it's not ready,” Ahmad Alam, owner of Arab World Newspaper and local property owner told Gulf News.

Alam said Little Arabia lacks cohesion and has fallen short of the place he imagined: an ethnic community that would "make everything available for the new generation, to know about their history and heritage."

Asem Abusir, who last year opened Knafeh Cafe, which specializes in a generations-old pastry recipe from Nablus in the West Bank, said "Some are reluctant, but it takes some educating about what is the vision. It's going to take some education both internally and externally.”
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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