Business corridor named Little Arabia in Anaheim

Official designation for stretch of Brookhurst Street aims to draw tourists

Anaheim councilman Jose Moreno (City of Anaheim)
Anaheim councilman Jose Moreno (City of Anaheim)

A boulevard in Anaheim known for its Middle Eastern lamb, falafel and saffron rice has now been officially designated Little Arabia.

The Anaheim City Council gave Brookhurst Street between Broadway and Ball Road the designation, the Orange County Register reported. The boundaries could change after a planned study.

It took more than a decade and a lot of grassroots organizing to name a district with the densest concentration of businesses owned by or catering to Arab Americans. More than 140 Arab and Middle East/North African businesses line Brookhurst and nearby streets.

Business owners located in Little Arabia hope it will help draw more people from near and far to its restaurants and specialty shops. It joins the Vietnamese-American community of Little Saigon as an Orange County designation and tourist magnet.

“It’s going to be an eye opener (for people) from outside Anaheim to say, ‘Oh, this is Little Arabia, it does exist – let’s go and try something,’” said Asem Abusir, whose Knafeh Cafe has been serving up Palestinian pastries, desserts and culture for nearly a decade.
The yearlong city study will determine how long a stretch of Brookhurst Street will be part of the official corridor and what kind of beautification upgrades would take place.

It will also look at whether it should be designated as a business or cultural district.

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Some also see the formal designation as a recognition of their contributions to Anaheim.

“Since 2008, I’ve spoken to three mayors and at least 13 council members” to lobby for Little Arabia’s recognition, said Rashad Al-Dabbagh, executive director of the Arab American Civic Council. “The fact that we’ve been pushing hard over the years and not giving up led to this victory.”

Supporters rallied for the designation at City Council meetings but couldn’t get buy-in from the mayor or enough council members to put it on the agenda. That changed after Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned in May, allowing Councilman Jose Moreno to introduce it.

Al-Dabbagh is hoping to work with artists and the city on beautification projects and to get signs to point people to Little Arabia and let them know they’ve arrived.

“We have an opportunity to make Little Arabia count and bring more attention, more resources,” he said. “Anaheim is more than just Disneyland, more than just the resort, and it’s time to focus and share the resources with West Anaheim.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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