Arabi is a census-designated place (CDP) located in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. You can find Arabi between the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans and Chalmette, on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River.
Arabi was established as a suburb of New Orleans during the 19th century and was part of Orleans Parish. However, a law was passed in the 1880s where slaughterhouses could no longer be located within the city of New Orleans. The area was first known as Stockyard Landing because of the numerous stockyards and slaughterhouses situated there. In 1875, because businesses interests did not want to be controlled by New Orleans, they asked the state of Louisiana to transfer the area downriver from Jackson Barracks to St. Bernard Parish.
According to an account made by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) – a United States federal government project that provided jobs to writers during the Great Depression – in 1941, the area was named after the residents who burned down the courthouse in the 1890s after being inspired by an Arabian man named Arabi Pasha. Arabi Pasha was fighting for independence from the British and torched Alexandria, Egypt in 1882. The community back in Louisiana felt that Arabi Pasha’s revolt was similar in spirit to their own revolt from New Orleans.
In 1907, Friscoville Avenue was built in Arabi, and along Friscoville were clubs and gambling centers. Gambling was banned in the city limits of Orleans Parish, but Friscoville Avenue was just outside the Orleans Parish line and could be easily accessed by the Canal Street Car Line. These places were operated until 1952 when they were shut down during the statewide crackdown on illegal gambling.
Arabi was hit by two destructive hurricanes: Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina. On September 9, 1965, Hurricane Betsy caused a storm surge in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet that toppled over levees on both sides of the channel. The flooding made its way to Arabi Park around 4 AM, and between 4 AM and 6 AM, the water rose up to 8 feet. The water then started flowing into Chalmette, making its way there across the railway between Arabi Park and Carolyn Park. Survivors took shelter in two-story buildings and had no power, supplies, running water, or communications. Since there was no search and rescue team to help these people, they eventually evacuated themselves using their own boats.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused another destructive storm surge that flooded all of Arabi. In some areas, the water reached higher than 20 feet. Many homes were destroyed or washed off their foundations. Locals began to evacuate themselves and local officials in St. Bernard Parish supplied food and water to the survivors. Most of the destruction and evacuation efforts were not covered by the media because they were focused on covering New Orleans.
Arabi is also made up of two historic districts: The Friscoville Street Historic District and the Old Arabi Historic District. In 2012, the Old Arabi Historic District was designated one of America’s Prettiest Painted places during a nationwide search done by the Paint Quality Institute of America.