Sure, most tourists flock to Hollywood, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills when they’re in Los Angeles. But you’re not “most tourists,” are you?
If you’re looking for a cultural experience that’s off the beaten tourist path, check out the Little Ethiopia, a unique neighborhood located in L.A.’s Carthay District.
Little Ethiopia is comprised of a variety of Ethiopian shops and restaurants along Fairfax Avenue between Olympic and Pico Boulevards.
Little Ethiopia’s beginnings date back to the 1970s, when thousands of Ethiopians came to Los Angeles seeking refuge from the civil strife in their East African nation.
Since then, the area has continued to thrive, and it was officially named “Little Ethiopia” by the L.A. City Council in 2002.
While I do love browsing the traditional clothing, handicrafts, spices, and dry goods at the Ethiopian markets, the thing that keeps me coming back to Fairfax is the food (I’m salivating just thinking about it). My favorite restaurants include Rosalind (the first Ethiopian restaurant to grace the area), Messob and Nyala. Here you can taste traditional Ethiopian dishes like wat (stew dishes made with spiced meats and roasted vegetables) and injera (a soft, flat, sour-tasting bread that you use to scoop the wat and rice into your mouth— no utensils required!).
During your voyage to Little Ethiopia, be sure to block off a couple of hours to take part in a traditional coffee ritual (a key component of Ethiopian culture). Most restaurants offer this, but Messob’s coffee ceremony is my favorite. The coffee ritual is an experience to be savored. The preparation alone takes at least ½ hour; green coffee beans are washed, roasted, ground and boiled in a flat pan over a small charcoal stove at your table.
Fragrant incense is burned as the coffee brews, creating a combination of scents that is sure to transport you to another place. The strong brew is then poured from a thin-neck pitcher (that is held at least one foot high, to create a lovely presentation) into small ceramic cups. Your “job” is to sit back, sip your coffee, and socialize for as long as you’d like.
CC Flickr photo credit: John Lopez