This weekend: 1st, 2nd & 3rd September

Zomer van Antwerpen finishes this weekend, so it’s your last chance to enjoy the ZvA summer bar (Sloepenweg) which closes on Sunday….

But there’s a lot still going on -September is busy and fun in Antwerp. Here’s your very google-maps-1797882_640own GOOGLE MAP to help you find your way this weekend.

Friday

Mark the liberation of Antwerp on Groenplaats at the Bal van de Bevrijding from 6pm (free): dancing, workshops, DJs and lots of retro music including a big band.

Flying Pig will be offering food, drink and music on Theaterplein from 5pm.

If you enjoyed the Cultuurmarkt last weekend you may have happened upon theater company BATS (British & American Theatrical Society) on the Groenplaats, offering information about their upcoming program (which includes Dracula next month). After a summer break, BATS begin their monthly open evenings once again at The Little Theatre (Paardenmarkt 111, first Friday of the month, from 8.30pm), where they open their doors (and their friendly, bijoux bar area) to anyone who would like to inform themselves about getting involved on stage or behind the scenes.

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Members of BATS at the Cultuurmarkt last weekend

Saturday

Hurrah! Antwerp Fashion Festival starts today, and continues until tomorrow. Shops will be open until 10pm with participating stores offering added incentives to lure fashion lovers into their shops. Here’s an extra map to help find your way.
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Also on both days is this Food Fest on Sint Andriesplaats, with food truck, kids playground, cocktails and a design market (Ieder Zenne Meug).

And on another popular neighbourhood square (Sint Jansplein), it’s the annual free festival Klassiek in de Stad.  It starts at 8.30pm with ballet highlights and continues on Sunday with free orchestral and operatic performances.

Sunday

Sunday shopping, as Antwerp Fashion Festival continues….

Sunday snacking, as Food Fest continues (from midday) …

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The stage for Klassiek in de Stad being set up on Sint-Jansplein earlier this week

Sunday music, as Klassiek in de Stad continues (from 11.30am).

… Or browse Markt van Morgen on Kloosterstraat from midday until 6pm -gifts, clothes, accessories, home interior items, jewellery -all made by local creatives and small businesses.

The weather looks OK, but temperatures falling off a bit from last weekend with top temperatures of around 20 degrees. It might be showery from time to time.

Miscellaneous

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Think Pink Run

Runners! You can register now for Race For The Cure which is a 6km run (or 3km walk) taking place on 24th September on the Kaaien, in aid of Breast Cancer research and awareness. It’s a special edition of the run, as this year Think Pink celebrates its 10th birthday.

Also for runners -the Bollekesloop takes place on the 10th of September. You can register until the 7th and it costs 10 euros (the 1km kids’ run is free). You get a free shirt (while supplies last), and -when you hand in your runner’s number at the end – a bolleke (for over 18s).

Belgian schools go back either on this Friday or next Monday, so expect roads and cycle paths to be busier at the beginning and end of the school day.

Open- air swimming pools are open until 17th September.

Images courtesy of Antwerp Fashion Festival, Pixabay & Think Pink. Stage image by Hannah McCulloch.

Don’t forget to find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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This Weekend: 25th, 26th & 27th August

It’s a busy weekend to finish the month of August, and before Belgian schools go back at the start of September. Here’s your GOOGLE MAP!

 

Friday

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The Mechelseplein

The Mechelsepleinfeesten take place on both theFriday and Saturday this weekend. This is a kid-friendly neighbourhood event, offering music, food, drinks and dance. The full list of events and happenings can be found on the event page on Facebook. On Friday it starts at 4pm.

Critical Mass holds their usually monthly cycle ride, starting from the Theaterplein at 6pm, so assemble then with your bike for this month’s Africa edition of the bike ride.

Also on Friday, Aper’eau is on Bolivarplaats from 5pm, with their usual offering of beers, wines and aperitifs – until midnight.

Saturday

The Mechelsepleinfeesten continue -again, from 4pm.

Jazztemblieft is a free Jazz festival taking place on the Godefrieduskaai, at the MAS museum, starting at 2 and continuing until midnight. It’s free and kid-friendly.

Sunday

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Cultuurmarkt flags on Meir

You may have noticed some red, white and blue flags hanging on Meir -these are for Cultuurmarkt which takes place in Antwerp today, in various locations around the city centre. There is a very varied and wide program for this day, including many exhibitions at city museums (most of which are open from 10 -5pm) as are other venues, including bars, theatres and businesses. Groenplaats, Meir, Grote Markt, Steenplein, Suikerrui and Wapper will all be busy with cultural activities, free performances and information. Check the Google map which indicates which arts area you can find out about at each of these locations. It is a chance to find out about the upcoming agendas of a huge number of musea, clubs, societies, theatres, music venues and organisations offering creative activities and performances in the coming months. There’s usually a lot to keep kids amused, including a trail to follow called Vliegroute -go to the hyperlink to download the card, which kids can get stamped as they go along, and eventually win a prize when they have collected stamps from completing fun activities.

Also for kids – Bar Noord is offering this free cooking workshop at 3pm for budding chefs aged 6-12. Mail lotte@dagvers.org to register your child.

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Lambermontmartre

Lambermontmartre will be holding their monthly art fair from midday, at Leopold de Waelplaats (near the Fine Art Museum) from midday, also with live music and food.

Yoyogi (part of ZvA) is back for Sundays in August -not just yoga, but music, games, workshops and other activities are on offer for free between 2- 7pm on the green at Rivierenhof.

The weather should be warm, and sometimes sunny with top temperatures of 24 – 25 degrees.

Miscellaneous

Wednesday 30th: don’t forget that on the last Wednesday of the month there is free museum entry.

Runners! You can register now for Race For The Cure which is a 6km run taking place on 24th September, in aid of Breast Cancer research and awareness.

Sportopia (Park Spoor Noord, in the Loods building) finishes this weekend (on the 27th)

Don’t forget to find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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This Weekend: 18th, 19th & 20th August

100balloons-343246_640It’s the 100th post on Nessascityblog! Thank you for following, and if you are finding this guide useful please share it with your friends and any groups you are in where it might be handy to English speakers who want to be part of life in Antwerp.

Here’s the GOOGLE MAP to help you find your way this weekend …

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Evening on Steenplein at Bollekesfeest

After Pride last weekend, we are once again lucky enough to have a great party event which which will dominate the weekend: this weekend is Bollekesfeest!  This beer festival primarily promotes and sells Antwerp’s best known local brew de Koninck (aka bollekes) but over the years it’s become more than that and lots of other breweries and food sellers are involved. If you are new to the city, it is a great way to feel part of local life and it is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

I would even go so far as to say, that you can enjoy this beer festival if you do not drink beer or alcohol, as on two occasions since I lived here I have not been drinking due to being pregnant but I have still had a good time with friends. It is also perfectly OK to take kids to this event during the day time and evenings. There will be more information here on the City of Antwerp site soon, but in my experience the best place if you are en famille is the Steenplein (although the fountains for them to play in have in previous years been on Groenplaats) during the afternoons and earlier part of the evening, but keep an eye on the link as there may be more information about kids’ areas. Either way, all three locations are very close by one another (Steenplein, Grote Markt and Groenplaats, so pick your spot.)

Friday

Bollekesfeest: 1pm -midnight

basketballeventOn de Coninckplein from midday until 7pm there is a selection of basketball contests and activities for all ages. There will also be live music, and the basketball fun continues on Saturday too, and it is all free.

Saturday

Bollekesfeest: 11am -midnight
Basketball continues on de Coninckplein
There’s the regular big rommelmarkt (fleamarket) on Sint Jansplein from 9 am

Sunday

Bollekesfeest: 11am -8pm

From 10am Snitt will be holding a vintage and second-hand market at Stack container village.

And back to de Coninckplein for their regular second-hand book, graphic novel and magazine market from 10am

Yoyogi (part of ZvA) is back for Sundays in August -not just yoga, but music, games, workshops and other activities are on offer for free between 2- 7pm on the green at Rivierenhof.

The weather looks like it might be showery on Friday afternoon, but thereafter likely dry for Saturday and Sunday, with temperatures of 18-20 degrees.

Miscellaneous

Don’t forget that all Zomer van Antwerpen events can be found on the zva site (I can’t list them all individually here).

In case you missed it – have a read of Sally’s story on last week’s Nessascityblog Guest Post … a fascinating personal story. If you would like to share your story on a guest post, please get in touch: nessascityblog@gmail.com

sportopiaFSportopia is on in Park Spoor Noord (in the Loods building) for kids and teens until the 27th August. It will stay open in September and October at the weekends only (except the 24th September) and will be open again on weekdays for one week during the October break (28th October- 5th November).

Buurtpleintjes is an initiative from Stad Antwerpen offering free sporting activities on local squares around the city, until October. Last year, my son really enjoyed a series of free basketball lessons on Sint Andriesplaats as part of this initiative. Start by checking here to see what’s on offer near you.

Don’t forget to find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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PRIDE weekend: August 11th, 12th & 13th

This weekend Pride is the main event! There is too much on to list all events here, but the Antwerp Pride page has all the deets. They also have a Facebook page too. 2017 is a special year: Antwerp Pride turns ten! Already underway, and coinciding with Pride, is the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival – their Facebook Page is also very helpful in keeping you up-to-date with their many events. 

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Here’s the GOOGLE MAP for this weekend.

Friday

You could start your Pride weekend on Theaterplein at Roof of Love from 3pm …

Alternatively Apereau are serving drinks from 5pm at Hangar 26/ 27 on the Rijnkaai

Saturday

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It’s Pride parade day! The Parade starts at 2pm and follows a route from the south, then along the river, thusly: Vlaamse Kaai (start) – Verschansingsstraat – Leopold De Waelplaats – Karel Rogierstraat – Marnixplaats – Scheldestraat – Scheldekaaien – Sint-Pietersvliet (end). The end of the route is right near Steenplein which is where the Pride Party will be happening from 4pm. This is free -there will be 2 stages with DJs, drinks and food. This is usually a busy, noisy and fun party.

Bos Uitstap is a day festival at Noord Kasteel Oost which only costs a fiver for a ticket (10 if you want the BBQ too).

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For something a bit different, how about this Open Air Chess Tournament on Groenplaats (near the Rubens Statue) from 10am -18.30.

 

From 10am there is the regular fleamarket on Sint Jansplein -I like this one. It’s very diverse and Sint Jansplein is a sociable neighbourhood square, with a playground.

From 7pm until 11pm it is in Antwerp Night of The Churches in Antwerp: 25 churches in the Antwerp area will open their doors for free expos, music, bell ringing and guided tours. Twelve of these are close to the centre of the city and can be seen on this map.

Sunday

Yoyogi (part of ZvA) is back for Sundays in August -not just yoga, but music, games, workshops and other activities are on offer for free between 2- 7pm on the green at Rivierenhof.

Pride’s closing festival will be on Grote Markt from 1.30pm with music and live bands (including Army of Lovers) until 6.30pm. It might be advisable to get to Grote Markt on time if you are keen to attend, as the square will be closed once full.

At 3pm you can get a free guided tour of St Andries Church

Or get away from the city centre and head to Bar Noord (Park Spoor Noord) with Urban Sundayz (music, poetry, spoken word, soul food & DJs)

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Urban Sundayz: free, from 14h -22h- Bar Noord

hetsteenateliersFA reminder for anyone with kids aged 6+ who need to be amused -Het Steen runs workshops each Sunday from 1pm. These are free and you can turn up at any time while they are on (bear in mind that this Sunday the area will be particularly busy because of the Pride Party) and while Belgian school holidays are on (i.e. until 1st September) the workshops will also take place on Saturdays.

The weather looks as though it will be similar to last weekend -cloudy with some sun and warm (but not hot) temperatures of around 20- 22 degrees. Chances of rain are low.

Miscellaneous

In case you missed it – have a read of Sally’s story on last week’s Nessascityblog Guest Post … a fascinating personal story. If you would like to share your story on a guest post, please get in touch: nessascityblog@gmail.com

sportopiaFSportopia is on in Park Spoor Noord (in the Loods building) for kids and teens until the 27th August.

Buurtpleintjes is an initiative from Stad Antwerpen offering free sporting activities on local squares around the city, until October. Last year, my son really enjoyed a series of free basketball lessons on Sint Andriesplaats as part of this initiative. Start by checking here to see what’s on offer near you.

Next Tuesday (15th) is a public holiday. But why? I hear you cry. Well,  it’s a Mother’s Day celebration which is unique to this area. This, from the Wikipedia Mother’s Day page:  “…There are also many people who celebrate Mother’s Day on 15 August instead; these are mostly people around Antwerp, who consider that day (Assumption) the classical Mother’s Day and the observance in May an invention for commercial reasons. It was originally established on that day as the result of a campaign by Frans Van Kuyck, a painter and Alderman from Antwerp”. Many cafés and restaurants will be offering Mother’s Day brunches and lunches, if you want to treat your mum, and there is a Rubensmarkt in the old town (round Suikerrui and along the kaaien by the river, near Steenplein) where the stall holders dress up in 17th century costume.

… And on Wednesdays at Bibfabriek, there are activities for children.

Don’t forget to find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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Guest post from Refutales: Sally Ghannoum

This story appeared originally on the website Refutales which gives a voice to the personal stories of refugees in Europe, and highlights the barriers to integration that they face. Dutch readers can find the article here.This story caught my eye because of its connection to Antwerp, and also because I have been to this restaurant (Dilbi Falafel) and enjoyed the delicious food that Sally and her husband serve there. Sally’s story is reproduced here with her permission and that of Refutales. Thank you to both Sally and Refutales for allowing me to share this story on Nessascityblog.

How a Syrian Director opened a Restaurant in Antwerp

 

Posted on 27 June 2017 

Translated by Veerle Masscheleyn

 

One rarely meets people who can incite others with their strength and zeal for life. Sally Ghannoum is such a person. One year and a half after her arrival in Belgium, she managed to establish a Syrian restaurant with the help of dozens of new friends.

We met at Dilbi Falafel in Antwerp while savouring the tasty cuisine. It soon became clear that Sally had more to offer than just oriental dishes. One could refer to her as the embodiment of successful integration.

In the heart of the Arabic neighbourhood

Dilbi Falafel is not exactly a business you’ll stumble upon, but there has been a steady growth of customers through word of mouth. It’s located at Diepstraat 60, about a ten minute walk from the train station of Antwerp. Suppressing my first impulse of entering the shopping street (known as ‘De Meir’), I made my way towards the Arabic neighbourhood. Sally dreams about a big restaurant at ‘de Groenplaats’, but for the moment she settles for her cosy restaurant. And she’s right. The location might even add to its charm.

We stopped en route to buy Aleppo soap, one of the most famous body care products, and then marvelled at the shop window of Iraqi bakeries. Who would have thought that all this could be found at a stone’s throw from Antwerp Central Station?

We merrily continued our walk to Dilbi Falafel. The ‘open’ sign invited us to swing open the non-transparent door.  We were pleasantly surprised, for the modest exterior conceals a very neat space. It is so unlike the typical falafel fast food restaurants. The carefully selected interior, the wallpaper that resembles a brick wall, the Arabic lighting, the varied salad bar … everything contributes to the oriental atmosphere.

Carefully selected menu

Sally greeted us with a firm handshake. “Welcome. Have you tasted Syrian cuisine before?” Upon expressing our adoration, she began to discuss the variety of dishes that are served. “The menu is rather limited and we prefer to keep it that way”, she explained. “We only add a dish after it’s been tried and tested thoroughly. My husband, Issam Youssef, is the chef and takes pride in his work. It took us 4 months to perfect the falafel recipe. We aim at perfection in taste as well as appearance.”

Issam is a trained engineer and a reputed poet. “He composes his dishes like poems”, she smiled, “so that both can nourish the soul.”

“[My husband] composes his dishes like poems, so that both can nourish the soul.”

Some customers entered. Sally jumped to her feet and greeted them. She went over the menu while explaining everything extensively. After they had made their choices, she joined us at the table. “Sorry about that”, she apologised, “but I always like to welcome new customers myself. Every dish has its specific background. In order to savour it fully, one needs to eat it our way.”

Her eyes started sparkling. “I may exaggerate at times. It happens that customers have a particular sandwich in mind. ‘Add this or leave that out’. Belgians do have a tendency to try out something new, but Syrians … they are quite traditional when it comes to how to eat their falafel (depending their city of origin).” Whenever she starts talking about Syrian habits, it’s impossible not to hang on her every word.

“I invariably answer that they should try out our sandwich first. We left nothing to chance when we were composing it. Our falafel recipe is a blend of various regions. Every ingredient is essential. Whenever a customer does prefer another sandwich, we simple add ours free of charge. The customer is always king, but even a king should sometimes dare to take the plunge.” It was clear: they serve an experience on top of a meal.

“The customer is always king, but even a king should sometimes dare to take the plunge.”

Time to try it out ourselves! Issam conjured up all his dishes on the table which we shared among each other. I highly recommend this formula! The portions are rather big and they can easily be combined. I personally adored the Sujukh sandwich, a bun filled with spicy minced meat. It was a true taste explosion. It would probably be impossible for me to devour a full portion, but its taste was perfectly complemented by Msabaha, a type of chickpea soup.

All meals are examples of Syrian street food culture. “Even though we are Christians, we make sure our food is halal”, explained Sally. “Special requests can be made. And we do get various orders during Ramadan.”

Freshness and hygiene are their hallmark. Every day, they spend about three to four hours cleaning and sterilising. Every morning, fresh vegetables are bought. All sauces are prepared by hand to ensure their authentic flavour. With Dilby Falafel they can put their country in a positive light.

How everything started

“At first I had no idea of what I wanted to do, but it was certain I wasn’t going to give up. I simply refused to succumb to depression.”, she said passionately. She used to be a music teacher in Syria and soon felt like widening her passion for art. In Dubai she studied to become a film director, while she helped her husband to run his business. The economic crisis forced her to leave the country and she got entangled in Syria’s war again.

“I had no idea of what I wanted to do, but it was certain I wasn’t going to give up.”

“We arrived in Europe by the regular route, in essence by boat.” She spoke about her journey as if it was the most common thing in the world, like going to buy bread at your local bakery on a Sunday morning.

“And then those attacks at Brussels took place”, there was an uncomfortable silence, “I was so angry! YOU DO NOT DO SUCH A THING. If you don’t love this country, simply leave!”

She would have loved to start her own business upon arrival, but that was not allowed. She could however study. Sally went to the International Academy of Film and Television Belgium. “I explained that I have nothing, except my willingness to work hard. I managed to get hold of a scholarship.”, she explained.

While they were recording, she always brought along a meal prepared by her husband. She let her fellow students have a taste. They were so impressed that it didn’t take long before Issam started to cater for the film crew. “That’s how we got the idea to start a restaurant.”

Once they had their residence permits, they started to look for a proper location. Sally coincidentally stumbled upon a restaurant for rent in the Diepstraat at Antwerp. “I immediately took it”, she said with a gloominess in her voice, “although this decision turned out to be quite costly.”

Apparently, the building did not have the official status of a restaurant. Through word of mouth they found out how to apply for such a license. It subsequently took five months before they received an answer. “We ended up paying rent and utilities for quite some time, without having an income.” That was quite a tough period. They did not qualify for a bank loan. Sally praises her friends. “Whoever we talk to, people are always confident. They believe in our project. I receive both monetary and practical support. And I always keep my promises to pay back.”

Home is where you’re welcome

What has mostly stuck with me from my meeting with Sally is her definition of ‘home’. “I’m very proud of my Syrian-Aramaic roots. But Belgium is my home. I arrived, received a warm welcome and was treated respectfully. If I would happen to leave for Africa and receive the same welcome there, then that would be my home.”

“In my opinion, only death is inevitable.”

She looked at me insistently. “Whatever happens in life, you’ll always have a home. Nothing is impossible. In my opinion, only death is inevitable. Never give up hope.”


Want to discover Issam’s kitchen and Sally’s hospitality?
Dilbi Falafel, Diepestraat 60, 2060 Antwerpen


Translated by: Veerle Masscheleyn
Photo credit: Just Alvaro Photography

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This weekend: 4th, 5th & 6th August

Back as promised, although still readjusting to the CET zone and the superior beer, so bear with me…. Hope you had a great July, whether you were in Antwerp or elsewhere. Here is the GOOGLE MAP to help you find your way this weekend and here are the events of interest:

Friday

linkerwoofer

 

Linkerwoofer festival takes place on the other side of the water on Friday and Saturday. It’s not a free festival, but not too pricey at 10 (if you arrive before 3 on the Saturday) -12 euros. It’s also kid-friendly (and free for kids shorter than 1m). This year all tickets are available on entry, rather than online beforehand.

 

Flying Pig is on Sint Andriesplaats from 5pm for outdoor drinks, music and snacks. This is a local square that I like -away from the better known squares like Grote Markt and Groenplaats -and offers a chance to explore some smaller bars along nearby Kloosterstraat (check out Heilig Huisken or Dansing Chocola).

At 2pm the Free Friday at Openlucht Theater Rivierenhof comprises French chanson by Liliane Saint Pierre and Marijn Devalck.

Saturday

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It’s the annual Museum Night in Antwerp: 24 museums which are open throughout the night, offering special expos and performances, as well as their permanent exhibitions. A shuttle bus service (included in your ticket) operates to take you from one museum to the next and costs 12 euros, or 9 euros if you buy online in advance. Kids under 12 go free, and it’s 6 euros if you are under 26.

 

Sunday

First Sunday of the month means it’s Sunday shopping in the city centre. For more frugal shoppers, head to Park Spoor Noord for a Goegekregen rommelmarkt  (secondhand market) between 9am and 6pm. The Bar Noord area is also family friendly, and the weather is predicted to be warm, so you might want to take a towel and swim things if you have children who are likely to want to play in the water there.

Yoyogi (part of ZvA) is back for Sundays in August -not just yoga, but music, games, workshops and other activities are on offer for free between 2- 7pm on the green at Rivierenhof.

At 3pm you can get a free guided tour of St Andries Church

Miscellaneous

The weather looks to be nice this weekend -warm, but not scorching at around 22 degrees – and likely dry, with some clouds.

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Antwerp Pride kicks off on the 9th August (next Wednesday -more in next week’s post) but check here for a number of pre-pride events, and Den Draak will also be kicking off Pride on Thursday in what they describe as their “biggest party of the year!!”.

Watch out for a guest post on Nessascityblog on Monday!

Don’t forget to find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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