Last year I compiled a list of top 5 events that occurred in and around Anaheim's Little Arabia district, which I thought were worth mentioning for either an accomplishment, a huge local impact, or setting new standards in the area. This year's list is different. The "Arab Spring" had a huge influence on millions around the world including locals in Southern California and Anaheim's Little Arabia. It is not a "Top 5" list. Instead I'm calling it "5 highlights" because it includes embarrassing moments of division that had a negative impact on the community:
1. Arab- and Egyptian-Americans celebrated the Egyptian revolution and the ousting of Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The Egyptian revolution unified the community locally and brought it together to celebrate on Brookhurst street on Friday Feb. 11th and Saturday Feb 12 and on March 6 at a Fountain Valley park. During Mubarak's trial in August, crowds gathered in both Nara Bistro and Nubia Cafe to watch it live on big screen TV's until 4 am as reported in this OC Weekly article.
2. While the Egyptian revolution brought the community closer, the Syrian revolution led to a sharp division in the Arab community. The devision was clear in many incidents, for example:
- Pro and anti regime Graffiti was seen on the walls of Anaheim businesses, even Aljazeera's The Stream covered the story.
- a local pro-regime Syrian copying the Syrian intelligence agency in his emails to "expose" anti-Assad activists.
- A boycott and protests of the well-attended annual Arab American Day Fair were organized because the organizer also owns a the pro-Assad 'The Arab World' newspaper. The boycott resulted in the resignation of the newspaper's editor before he was reinstated after the end of the festival.
3. ACCESS California Services, a social services agency that serves primarily the Arab and Muslim population, was awarded a grant by Orange County's Social Services Agency to become the lead agency in the county to serve and support the refugee population. One of the primary reasons ACCESS was rewarded the contract, besides a good proposal, is the fact that the demographics of refugees in the county have changed. Between 2006-2010, More than 48% of refugees came from the Middle East, including 25% from Iraq.
4. CAIR-LA's annual gala attracted more than 2,150 people at one of the largest Muslim community events locally. The event raised more than $410,000 to support the organization's work and featured the internationally-acclaimed Syrian pianist Malek Jandali, who was honored at the event. Jandali's parents were reportedly beaten in Syria simply because of a pro-revolution song he had performed at a rally in Washington.
5. The best part of Little Arabia that is not controversial: food. In 2011, we witnessed the decline of Victory Bakery after it moved to Euclid, and Andaluz after its temporary closure. Some benefited including Pita Paradise as an Andaluz replacement, and Nara Bistro, which became known for its "bouncing parties" and constant use of Facebook to promote its weekend festivities. The one restaurant opened in 2011 that went unnoticed was Al-Omada Egyptian Cafe. It's not a place where you would go to hang out (no hookah's for all you hookah addicts), but I keep going back for that stuffed pigeon plate with molokheya, rice and salad.