Dearborn, Michigan: The Hollywood of Arab America
By: Anthony Bayyouk / Arab America Contributing Writer.
Throughout the many years of emigration, Arabs have created communities across the United States. These hubs are filled with thousands of Arabs owned businesses, schools with a large Arab student body, Arab city councils, and more. Every aspect of the community has an Arab involved. The most famous among these communities is in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn is talked about nationwide by Arab Americans, but why does Dearborn have such a large Arab population? Dearborn has become a tourist attraction for Arabs and other ethnicities visiting Michigan. The restaurants, cafes, bakeries, museums, salons, and barbershops area all owned by Arabs in the community have contributed to the mini Middle East in South East Michigan.
The first influx of Arabs to Dearborn started over a century ago with migrant workers. Migrant workers from the Middle East have been immigrating to Dearborn to work in the auto industry. Dearborn is home to the Ford Motor company that was founded in 1903. Henry Ford the founder, of the Ford Motor co, also created the assembly line an effective way to build thousands of cars in one day. The assembly line requires a lot of manpower. Arabs in the Middle East were still living under the Ottoman empire. Travel and word visas were much easier to attain back then. Because of the many auto industries in Dearborn, Arabs that wanted to migrate to the US saw Dearborn as a secure opportunity. As time went on Arabs started to settle in Dearborn.
Currently, there are 40,000 Arabs in Dearborn, and the neighboring city Dearborn Heights which has also become a hub is home to 20,000 Arabs. The population in both cities is growing every year. The growing population adds demand to housing. In Middle Eastern culture Arabs are very family-oriented and it’s important to stay close to family. Arabs that are born and grow up in Dearborn hope to buy a home and raise their family there. The culture of staying close to your family has people searching for months for a house in Dearborn. The housing market is one of the most expensive in MI. A 1,400 square foot home is going for a minimum of $200,000. To put it in perspective The City Of Redford that also neighboring Dearborn has 1,400 square foot homes going for $99,000. It is also very common for Arabs to buy land and build big homes. Driving around Dearborn it’s not uncommon to see a 5,500 square foot home next to a 2,000 square foot home.
The millennial era in Dearborn
It is no secret that Dearborn is known for its food. Shatila, Masri sweets, and Habib’s cuisine are among the finest in Dearborn. Times have changed in the last decade. Arab Millenials are stepping up to the plate and taking over the food industry. The millennials have left Middle Eastern cuisine to their elders and are diving into American cuisine. Many of the new restaurants consist of burgers, BBQ, pizza, and subs, and crepes, some things you wouldn’t see or think would be successful in Dearborn. Among the few most famous are Good Burger, Al’s BBQ, Ricks Subs, Al Basha Subs, Taystee’s burger, La Galati among many others that have become very popular in recent years. Millennials have left Middle Eastern food to their elders and created a new legacy in Dearborn. Every year during the Holy month of Ramadan, Dearborn restaurants and Arabs from around the community set up a food stand on the side of the road and in parks to serve people from 11 pm until sahur. The Ramadan food stand idea was one all Dearborn natives wished they had started years ago because it brings the community together during the most important time of the year.
Not only are young Arabs influencing the food industry in Dearborn but they have also started to represent their community by running for public office. For the first time in History Dearborn will have its first Arab American Mayor. Abdullah Hamoud announced his campaign after the former Mayor announced he will not run again due to restrictions pertaining to health. Hammond is a young ambitious Arab American that will rightfully represent all of Dearborn. This past summer Dearborn experienced some of the worst floods in history. The city’s roads were shut down for many days, people’s trash from the flood sat outside their homes for weeks. The lack of action from the government got more Arabs involved in local politics than ever before. The Dearborn city council will also be represented by many Arab Americans. If you ever pass through Michigan take a stop in Dearborn you won’t be disappointed.