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The debate over Little Arabia: What’s in a name?




Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Al-Farah Islamic Fashion store is one of the only places in the country where customers can find Abaya cloaks (pictured here) and prayer rugs.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Inside Al-Farah Islamic Fashion store. "Little Arabia" has restaurants, clothing stores, cafes and grocery stores.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Hijabs are on display inside Al-Farah Islamic Fashion store in Anaheim.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Women take part in the Maghrib prayer just after sunset at 5:34 p.m. at West Coast Islamic Society in Anaheim on Feb. 12. The prayer is the fourth of five daily prayers.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Clocks on the wall inside West Coast Islamic Society in Anaheim show the times for the five daily prayers.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Shoes are left on a shelf inside West Coast Islamic Society in Anaheim during a call to prayer on Feb. 12.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Men take part in the Maghrib prayer at the West Coast Islamic Society in Anaheim.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
A family eats at Aleppo's Kitchen in Anaheim on Feb. 12. Owner Nidal Omar, who left Syria because of the war, opened the restaurant in 2013.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Gloria Aguilar, a cook at Aleppo's Kitchen in Anaheim, prepares what will eventually become hummus.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Falafel is taken out of hot oil and laid out to cool at Aleppo's Kitchen in Anaheim on Feb. 12.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Hamsa Al Moukdad, a cook at Aleppo's kitchen, pours olive oil into a bowl to make tabbouleh.
Fresh Choice grocery store in Little Arabia has a range of multicultural foods, including Halal meats like beef fajitas, that are made to fit under Islamic dietary rules.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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Drive along Brookhurst Street in West Anaheim, and dozens of storefront signs in Arabic crop up amid logos for Starbucks and Jack-in-the Box.

Known informally as Little Arabia, Arab-owned bakeries, restaurants, clothing stores and hair salons have been taking root on this roughly two-mile stretch of Brookhurst since the 1980s.

Customers have been known to travel hours for delicacies and wares they can’t find elsewhere in the western US, such as Aleppo’s Kitchen’s nine varieties of kibbeh — a dish made of lamb or beef, spices and pureed onions.

Given the area’s growth and popularity, some community activists and business leaders are pushing to make the Little Arabia moniker official. The area has become a point of pride, and an important part of identity for the city's Arab-Americans.

“We want to share our culture, we want to celebrate our culture with everyone that lives here,” said community activist Rida Hamida, part of a group advocating for an official designation.

It's an idea that has floated around in recent years, and failed to catch on. Some long-time residents are outspoken in their opposition. But the idea of branding Little Arabia is gaining traction with city leaders eager to give visitors another taste of Anaheim aside from Disneyland or the convention center.

KPCC's Josie Huang reports.