2014 marked another milestone for Little Arabia District when thousands of brochures promoting the district's businesses were distributed at hotels and tourist destinations in and around Anaheim. Here's my list of Little Arabia highlights of 2014 (in no particular order):
- Little Arabia District website and brochures launched in August. Millions of tourists who come to the city of Anaheim from across the US and the world had the opportunity to be exposed to Little Arabia District. The brochures are now available at more than 160 locations, mostly at hotels near Disneyland.
- During the State of the City address, an event held by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Jan. 28th, Mayor Tom Tait encouraged more than 600 attendees to visit Little Arabia and try some of the best authentic food in Orange County. "We all know that Anaheim has some of the most authentic and diverse neighborhoods in the state. Our city is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. Take for example, Brookhurst Street, or as the locals refer to it, Little Arabia. Home to halal butcher shops, restaurants, beauty salons, travel agencies, bakeries and more, this neighborhood is really a cultural destination in our city. Whether you are stopping by Olive Tree for delicious lamb or picking up some baklava at Papa Hassan's, Little Arabia gives visitors a different experience than a typical convention city." With a renewed community push to designate Little Arabia, media coverage of local efforts to promote the area during the weeks following the speech included national media outlets such as NPR, KPCC, Aljazeera America, Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and OC Weekly.
- Nobel Peace Prize winner and Yemeni revolutionary leader Tawakkol Karman delivers keynote address at the annual banquet of CAIR-LA, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group, at the Anaheim Hilton.
- Video of Olive Tree Restaurant owner Alan Abdo ripping up a Congressional certificate goes viral after Rep. Loretta Sanchez appeared on KNBC stating that she would support an Israeli ground incursion in Gaza last summer.
- Following the summer's Israeli aggression against Gaza, the Anaheim-based Gaza-native immigration lawyer Akram Abusharar filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to "cease all military aid to all Israelis and the Israeli government" and to deny Israeli military officers U.S. entry by declaring "them persona non grata." Abusharar's family's home in the Gaza Strip was bombed by the Israeli military. The OC Weekly reported that Abusharar believes Kerry and Hagel have repeatedly violated laws including the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, a measure he says bans military equipment transfers to nations that grossly violate human rights.
- The kibbeh at Aleppo's Kitchen made it on OC Weekly's favorite dishes of 2014. Order it and don't ignore the many styles of kibbeh on the menu!
- Many of us longtime Little Arabia loyalists spent countless evenings at a popular restaurant/hookah cafe known as Andaluz five years ago. The restaurant, which also hosted several NAAP Mixers in 2010, has been closed since 2011. The good news is, it has recently re-opened under the name El Mahroosa Cafe & Hookah Lounge. If you haven't been there yet, stop by and order some of the delicious home-made meals made by Chef Um Alaa, and order that lemon-mint juice.
- Nahla Kayali, Founder and Executive Director of Access California Service - a Little Arabia-based social services organization that serves immigrant and low income families, receives the Champion of Change award by the White House on Cesar Chavez Day.. Congratulations!