After months of courting local communities, politicians and convention officials, Little Arabia marked another milestone yesterday. The ethnic enclave of family-friendly Middle Eastern restaurants and markets mostly along Brookhurst Street in Anaheim is now recognized as a tourist attraction by the city and the Anaheim Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau. A profile of the district went live online on the latter's website making things official!
The vision began to take shape and initiative at a luncheon event where Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait visited with residents at Papa Hassan's Grill. The Weekly dubbed it the 'Shawarma Summit," helping set off a media blitz as countless profile pieces followed. Jay Burress, President and CEO of Anaheim Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau, left the summit impressed. "It really has so much potential," he said of Little Arabia at the time. "There's a million dollars every hour spent by visitors in Orange County. We need to make sure this area is getting its share as well."
Through a partnership with the Arab American Chamber of California, that aim is closer to becoming reality and it couldn't have come at a better time. Throngs of summer tourists are coming into Anaheim and its surrounding areas for treks to Disneyland. For those coming into the area from the Muslim world, Ramadan is also in full effect. What better way to break a religious fast at sunset while on vacation than with an epic iftar buffet in Little Arabia?
The District is a few miles west of the Anaheim resort, but plans are being made to connect the two. "There will be a future partnership with the Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) and the Yellow Cab," says Rida Hamida, Executive Director of the Arab American Chamber of California. "We're actually going to get the tour bus into Brookhurst." Taxi cab drivers can talk up the grub spots and if passengers are intrigued by what they hear, they may direct their dining destination on over to Little Arabia District.
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All the Weekly faves are featured from Kareem's Restaurant to Olive Tree. "The most important thing is to get an authentic flavor of Anaheim," Hamida says. "No matter who they are, where they come from, no one can complain about Arabic food! It brings people together."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2