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The History of National Arab American Heritage Month

Arab American Heritage Month cover image with SWE branding

Learn about the history of National Arab American Heritage Month and how to celebrate!

In 1527, a Moroccan man by the name of Mustafa Azemmouri landed in the U.S. as a slave, possibly becoming the first Arab individual to move to the U.S. Then in 1854, Antonio Bishallany immigrated from Lebanon to the United States and became the first official Arab American. Since then, there have been multiple waves of immigration from the Arab World into the U.S., and the number of Arab Americans is estimated to be over 3.7 million people today. Check out the Arab American Institute map to learn more about how this population is distributed among the different states.

NAAHM first began to be celebrated in the 1990s, primarily sporadically in school districts. Gradually, it came to be recognized by more and more organizations in more and more states. In 2017, an organization called Arab America began the initiative to recognize the month nationally. In 2021, April was federally recognized for the first time as National Arab American Heritage Month.

How to Celebrate National Arab American Heritage Month

As a SWE member or SWENexter, there are many ways that you can celebrate National Arab American Heritage Month. One way is to learn about Arab American history and particularly Arab American women who have made history in STEM. For example, check out the book “Girl Decoded: A Scientist’s Quest to Reclaim Our Humanity by Bringing Emotional Intelligence to Technology.” This book tells the story of Rana el Kaliouby, an Egyptian American who helped pave the way into researching, understanding, and implementing Emotion Artificial Intelligence. Or learn about Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Iraqi American pediatrician who helped uncover the Michigan water crisis.

Of course, food is a science, too! You can find some Arab food recipes online, and work with your friends to prepare them for an Arab American group lunch get-together. This is a fun way to practice the Arab cooking experience itself as well as socialize with others while celebrating NAAHM. Here is a list of suggested recipes to get you started.

Another fun activity is to visit your local museum and check if they have an exhibit on Arab or Arab American History. Be sure to also visit the Arab American National Museum website to access their virtual resources and learn more about Arab American history.

Now these museums and online resources do not have all stories covered! If you know any Arab Americans in your community, take some time during NAAHM to get to know them better. You can ask for their story or interview them. If they are making a large positive impact in your community, take the chance to recognize them; for example, send them an appreciation message or give them a shout-out on social media.

Be sure to check out the Arab America and Arab American Foundation websites for more activities and upcoming national events that will take place during NAAHM, many of which are free.

As a final parting activity, you can take some time and use online resources to learn about the Arabic alphabet and language. Translate some of your favorite words from your native language into Arabic, and you can use online generators to learn how to write your own name in Arabic.

Have fun learning, have a great National Arab American Heritage Month, and Ma’a Salama!



  • Amar Dabaja

    Amar Dabaja is an Electrical Hardware Engineer at Veoneer, where she designs passive safety electronics for automotive applications. Amar graduated from Lawrence Technological University in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.