Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Little Ethiopia

I WANTED to explore an area in Los Angeles that I had only visited a couple of times but have always wanted to go back and visit. The community/neighborhood is Little Ethiopia. Little Ethiopia is located on Fairfax Ave. between Olympic Blvd and Pico Blvd. To be more specific, it is located 5 minutes east of Beverly Hills and 10 minutes south of Hollywood hills, 15 minutes Universal Studios, 15 minutes to Downtown L.A., 20 minutes to Santa Monica, Venice Beach and LAX on Fairfax Avenue this newest LA Ethnic enclave was christened in 2001.

I was able to browse an Ethiopian store, which is definitely one of a kind and talk to the owner’s son about the store's life (or working life since no one actually lives here) in Little Ethiopia. He preferred not to be named or photographed because he said he was shy. But he was still very helpful in giving me details about LE and letting me take pictures of the store. His mother founded the store in the early 1990’s and it has been a staple in the Ethiopian community for more than two decades. Currently his mom is in Ethiopia, she left for six weeks to pick up new items and bring them back to the store. It is very important to her to have authentic clothes from their country. He said it would be insulting to their customers if they tried to pass off U.S. made clothes as Ethiopian. Everything is imported no matter if it is at a greater cost to the owner and the store because it is a point of pride that they are able to provide their community with little pieces of home.

Little Ethiopia is a really small area physically and socially, so everyone knows everyone and there is a little bit of competition since there are so many restaurants in the area. I was even able to get inside details about each of the restaurants and their owners which was very interesting. For example, one restaurant has never been filled to capacity and everyone in the community knows it’s not a very good restaurant and the only way that particular restaurant stays in business is by attracting tourist and non-locals. In fact I was shocked to learn that the best Ethiopian restaurant, which always has a waiting time of about an hour to be seated, is actually not in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Ave! It is a couple of streets over on Olympic Blvd., but that is still fairly close to LE and the central focus of the community, which is Fairfax.

Finally we talked about his life for a few min. I found out that he doesn’t wear traditional Ethiopian clothes because he feels that when in traditional garb he sticks out and that makes him feel uncomfortable. Even in LE he doesn’t like to wear traditional Ethiopian clothing because LE is not the only place he is in. He works in LE, lives in another part of Los Angeles, while visiting friends in a completely different part of the city. He expressed that it is hard for him to be a chameleon and change his clothing according to what he is expected to wear.


Photo Credit: Myself

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