As the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in the 1880s, the Levantine agricultural economy took a nosedive and Syrian Maronite Christians flooded into New York. They brought with them their most famous poet, Kahlil Gibran, whose words ("Half of what I say is meaningless . . . ") later inspired John Lennon to write "Julia." The immigrants established a bazaar around the corner of Rector and Washington in downtown Manhattan, abundant with coffee shops, rooming houses, newspapers, and, of course, hookah parlors. A second wave, including Muslims as well, began arriving early in the... More >>>