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Interest in Little Syria in the Arab World (Gulf Tour on Ameen Rihani)

By Posted in - What's Happening Now? - News And Updates on December 30th, 2011 0 Comments

As part of the celebratory activities for the 100th anniversary of Ameen Rihani’s The Book of Khalid, an Arab-American novel about Washington Street which influenced this campaign’s establishment, I just returned from a three-week speaking tour of the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. I am continually surprised at how few people, especially Arabs, in the United States or in the Arab world, are aware that Lower Manhattan was once the center of Arab life in the United States.

During this tour, a good amount of Arab media took interest in this specific history of Little Syria, and it was mentioned in Gulf News, al-Jazeera, Gulf Times, al-Qabas (Kuwait), and al-Hayat, along with KSA1 and KSA2 television stations.

The al-Jazeera story, along with the Al-Arabiya documentary from earlier this year, specifically focused on the “Save Washington Street” preservation effort and the short-term threats to the neighborhood.

I believe this interest is now substantial enough that we can say that the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s actions regarding Washington Street will be observed around the world. The Arab heritage should be valued in the same manner as other ethnic heritage in the city, and the designation of all three remaining building into a mini-historical district will be received positively in the Arab world — in a year where a generous act will be greatly appreciated.

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