10 must-knows if you’re having a baby in Antwerp

Lauraandbaby
Laura Soave

This is for you if you are going to have a baby and you live in Antwerp-
a few helpful things to keep in mind by Laura Soave (pic right), who has recently had her second child here in Antwerp.

1.The Mecca of Parenting

If you need advice about your baby or pregnancy, or about  breastfeeding; if you want to find a baby massage class, do yoga during pregnancy or if you just want a chat about your sleepless nights with your newborn you’ll find everything you need at the Kraamvogel.

Kraamvogel provides a variety of services and support: the website is very clear in terms of finding what you need: it’s divided into 3 sections: Zwanger (pregnancy), Bevallen (delivery) and Kinderwens (getting pregnant/ starting a family). In the Kraamvogel (Volkstraat 7 – 2000 Antwerpen) you’ll find lots of books about babies and pregnancy too

kraamvogel2. All you need is help

If you are in need of a consultation at home or you would like support in deciding  whether to deliver at home or at the hospital, you can go on the website Vroedvrouwen.be to look for a vroedvrouw, a midwife. These are independent professional women and they provide a phone number that you’ll be able to reach during the week or weekend if you have difficulty with breastfeeding or other newborn-related issues. You can also contact organizations like Solidariteit voor het Gezin to get the kraamzorg. This organisation, like many others, will be able to provide you, for a fair price, someone that can help you during your first days at home with your baby. They will prepare simple meals for you, you can send them on an errand to the pharmacy or the supermarket. They’ll even do some cleaning in the house, if needed

3. If this isn’t your first Rodeo…

First-time parents cannot wait to buy new clothes, lots of toys, a new stroller. When you’re having your second child, it’s a whole new vibe. You’ll try to recycle whatever you can and at some point you’ll want to get rid of things. Whenever you want to give away things (clothes, toys, crib, etc.) you can bring them to Moeders voor Moeders, a charity organization located in Borgerhout that works with 160 volunteers. I have done a tour of the place myself and believe me, when I tell you, it’s huge and well organized in departments, there’s even a cafeteria where people who cannot afford it, can get coffee for 10 cents.

moedersvoormoeders

 

You can also go to the Geefwinkel creandersregenboog in Berchem, where you’ll find clothes (men, women and children) and you’re allowed to bring things but also to collect what you like or need.

4. To pump or not to pump: that is the question!

NoordbabyNot a lot of people know that the public hospital Sint-Vincentius in Antwerp doesn’t rent electric breast-pumps any longer, nor will you find them at the pharmacies. I found Noord Baby as the only place in Antwerp city centre that rents breast-pumps. The owner is a midwife and also organizes workshops on different topics (pre-partum classes, breastfeeding, and so on).

You can also contact your mutualiteit (health care insurer) to rent the breastpump (generally for a very fair price).


5. When your baby is born

Shortly after the birth of your baby,  you’ll be contacted by an organization called Kind en Gezin, who will arrange an initial visit with you at home. During the visit, they’ll test hearing and monitor the baby’s weight. They’ll also get you an appointment for the baby’s first vaccinations. You can either go for a general consultation, or just to take the weight and measure your baby (no appointment needed for this). All of these services are for free.

kindengexin

6. Home delivery and Shopping 

Orchestra and Dreambaby on the A12 are the cheapest big malls for toys, clothes, strollers, diapers, and more important items. But can also find lots of good deals at Kruidvat. Especially on baby products.

Personally I’ve always found practical to have diapers delivered home, together with other baby supplies. Parents do not always have time to rush to the supermarket to get the essentials (diaper disposal bags, wet napkins, diapers).

Let’s call it ‘peace of mind’: I only do this once a month via bol.com and get it delivered at home for free in 24h.

Don’t forget: if you have Mobile Viking as phone provider, you’ll receive a percentage of your purchases as phone credit. Pretty awesome!

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7. CPR for babies and toddlers

This can be a scary topic for new parents, but bear with me here, because it is important.

It’s a must for every parent. There are organisations which offer classes. It’s just one evening (4 hours- but you can also find longer courses that offer more detailed and developed training) during which an expert will teach you what to do in case you’ll have to manage a situation involving choking, drowning, burning, drinking poisoning substance or medications. There is also a practical session at the end with practice- mannequins. This is a specific class for CPR on babies and toddlers: Rode Kruis First Aid to babies and children in EN EHBO bij kinderen in NL

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8. Parental Leave (Ouderschapsverlof/ Congé Parental)

If you have a Belgian contract, once your insurance has terminated the payments for your moederschapsverlof (maternity leave) you can also apply for your Ouderschapsverlof (parental leave). You can do this easily by applying via RVA’s (ONEM) website. This website provides the paperwork you need only in NL and FR.


You’ll need to fill in the paperwork (to be downloaded on the website) and there is a part for the employee and a few pages for your employer. You’ll need to attach to your file a copy of your baby’s birth certificate too. This procedure usually takes about a month or so to get approved. You can also follow your file online, to see scheduled payments etc.


9. Find your Mary Poppins.

mary-poppins-2756841_640Use Bsit: this is a very handy app created in 2015 by two cool Belgian mums – Géraldine and Donatienne – who wanted to know more about their babysitters before meeting them for the first time. You set your price per hour; you choose for proximity or best reviews. The reviews are very helpful; you can read about other parents’ experiences with that same person. You also get to know things like: how much experience your babysitter has, how many sittings she has done, which languages she speaks, her age etc.

There are also a couple of other organisations that provide this kind of service: Kinderoppas and Nanny in Nood. These can be a little more expensive than Bsit, but helpful and professional in the same way.

10. If you’re going back to work…

You’ll find a very useful list of Crèches on this website. There is a section for people in immediate need of a spot, but usually finding a daycare that has a spot in Antwerp can take a while, so try to do it as soon as possible -many people in busy areas will get onto waiting lists after the 12 week scan. You can choose whether to opt for a Group daycare or apply for an Onthaalmoeder– these are mothers at home that take between 6 and 8 babies. This is a solution for parents who prefer a smaller environment for their child. But again, hurry!  There are often long waiting lists for any of these solutions.

About the blogger

LauraS
Laura Soave (nonnative blog)

Laura Soave is an Antwerp blogger and designer from Italy. Check out her blog: nonnative and find her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter  

Would you like to write a guest post about your experiences (or knowledge) of Antwerp? contact me on nessascityblog@gmail.com. I’d like to hear your Antwerp story.

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Guest blog post: Glass blower, Frederik Rombach

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Frederik Rombach

Hi, my name is Frederik and I am the owner of Rombachs Glass. I was born in Belgium, and raised in Benoni, Johannesburg until the age of 14 . From there, my parents and I moved to the Netherlands where I learned to speak Dutch. At aged 17 I decided to continue traveling the world and spent time living and working in San Diego, and later on in Puebla, Mexico. Leaving the warm Southern Hemisphere I spent time living and working in Bergen, Norway. About 6 years ago I moved to Antwerp and decided to settle down here (…for a while at least).

Rombachs glass studio is the first public glass studio in Belgium that works solely with waste glass. We host demonstrations where we make sculptures out of waste glass such as boxing gloves, scorpions and all kinds of other weird stuff! We also host team-building events for large and small companies looking to have some fun together and make a communal object out of glass. If you feel like do something fun after work then you can also check out the workshops that we do in the evenings!

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We are also setting up an exciting new experiment where we help people learn Flemish through glassblowing. If you are interested in this trimester program then please get in touch for more information!

But that’s not all we do: we also make company gifts. If you and your company are looking for a lasting memento, and want something truly unique then we will be able to help!

So, from sculptures to events, and a mix of products in between, that’s pretty much what we do -and we do it all with waste glass!

Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, ideas or projects you would like to pass on.

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a workshop at Rombachs Glass

Last but not least, on Sunday 14th of July we will be hosting our monthly Second Sunday, from 2pm – 5pm. We ask a 5€ contribution which is also your raffle ticket! At the end of the demo we will raffle off the pieces we made to a few lucky winners!

Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages and do come to see what we do LIVE!

Rombachs Glas GCV
Frieslandstraat 23,  2660 Hoboken BE
T  0032 4 86 95 96 54
www.rombachs.com

 

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Antwerp Stories: Sylwia Piatek, Life Coach from Poland

 

Sylwia
Sylwia Piatek

Where are you from and what brought you to Antwerp?

 

I’m from Poland and I came to Antwerp in 1996 as an au pair. I was learning languages (English and Dutch). I fell in love with Belgium and so I didn’t go back to Poland!

I stayed and I met my present husband, and also found a job with Colruyt: I started as a saleswoman and went on to become a department head.

After 12 years I stopped. I experienced depression and burn-out so I decided to do something else. I opened my own shop selling leather bags in the centre of Antwerp (on the Nationalestraat). It was a struggle to work there at the time when the city was rebuilding that area.

I was always working with people and for people, so when one day I opened email and workshop /certification for life coach popped up, it felt like a calling.

What work do you do here in Antwerp?

I’m a certified life coach which means helping clients with personal development. I assist with work /life /business balance. I have experience in business management and in helping my clients to find different pathways to success and happiness. Some clients want to  find balance, and to have more quality time for themselves and family .

What do you feel are the challenges of adapting to life in Antwerp?

For me was the language!

What do you like best about living here?

I love the possibility to develop a mindset of growth and travel. What I mean by this is to just be grateful and live now: not later – enjoying the moment and not being overly-preoccupied by the future.

flag-2292681_640Tell us about something typically Polish that you miss.

Family- mainly I miss my mother, especially since  my father passed away a couple of months ago. Poles are very family-orientated, especially at Christmas

Poles have a  rich culture of dance, music, history . We also have very beautiful cities: Krakow is one of them

Our food is different: we eat a lot of soup, and a special cheese cake .”Ogorki kiszone” (pickled cucumbers) is another Polish specialty.

I really recommend Poland as a place to visit or for a holiday.

You have a lot of contact with Antwerp’s Polish community. Can you tell us a little more about the community and its contribution to Antwerp?

polandYes, I work with a lot of Polish people. They are talented and they are hard workers.They are not afraid of effort and commitment. Polish people are not only to be associated with the cleaning sector or construction, but make important cultural contributions too: as musicians and entrepreneurs, for example. There are more than 20,000 Polish people in Antwerp.

Our community is very rich in culture and talent. We are sometimes afraid to show it but I’d like to change that and wish that we would show more of our creativity, spirituality and love of nature

We have Polish schools and shops in Antwerp and other Belgian cities, so that Belgian people can try Polish products and explore Polish culture, or tasty Polish food. We have a Polish football team and a Women’s Volleyball team too.

We are open to learning, and sharing our achievements.We have a strong sense of community and a desire to help others.

You can find Sylwia at Successful Life Strategist (Facebook) and on instagram or on her website successfullifestrategist.com

Sylwia organises the Global Speaker Award 

 … and also these upcoming events: Live Your Passion and Rodo I Biznes

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The Chef’s Cut: culinary adventures in Antwerp

Tell us about when and why Chef’s Cut was established?

Established in 2012, The Chef’s Cut was set up to cater for a very specific niche of the culinary market: foodies and professionals alike, who like to travel to the foods’ places of origins, and to cook with the locals.

What services do you offer?

We offer culinary tours, professional cooking courses, barista courses, wine evening experiences and culinary consultation.

chefscut2I hear you have started offering some experiences at a more accessible price – can you share some information about these? 

We have identified a more moderate, differentiated niche for wine lovers. We have therefore decided to offer two types of wine evening experiences: the exclusive wine evenings, starting from € 85.- p/p; then the moderate wine evenings, starting at € 35.- p/p

Do you think that food and drink has a special role in bringing people of different backgrounds and origins together? 

Not only do we think so, but we have some clear cut evidence that indeed this is so! 

Tell us about the experts who lead guests through the food and wine experiences? 

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 18.35.02On our web site you can see a short CV of each our sommeliers:  https://www.thechefscut.com/en/wine-tasting/wine-tasting-evening/ 

We are now in the process of bringing on board a Spanish Sommelier for our Spanish wine collection, and a local Belgium sommelier who will talk about our unique Eastern European wines.

To what extent does Antwerp have a good culinary scene for “foodies”? 

Very much so. Antwerp can pride itself on having numerous restaurants and offering a very multicultural cuisine (it’s the city with the highest number of restaurant per capita in Europe). It has always been a hub where culinary trends are set.

chefscut1An Evening At The Chef’s Cut

I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to a Chef’s Cut wine tasting last week. I should probably be clear that although I regularly enjoy wine, I don’t really know anything about it, so it could be that such an evening would be an intimidating experience, however this was not the case. The sommelier (Alexis Caraux; pic left) was very relaxed, informative and hit precisely the right tone for this occasion, clearly reaching both inexperienced tasters like myself, and those present who knew a bit more. The evening was held in English and those present came from a variety of places.

The food provided to enjoy with the wines was really delicious. I’m vegetarian so didn’t take the meat, but my partner assures me that it was good, and I certainly enjoyed the cheeses.

The costs of this evening is 35 euros, which is a bit more than events and locations I tend include on this blog. However, I think this was great value, given that the price includes the aforementioned foods, a knowledgable sommelier to talk you through the experiences, and the chance to try seven different wines; ones which it is unlikely that you would ordinarily have the chance to taste, since they were described as a little “off the beaten track”.

If -like me you- don’t know a great deal about wine-tasting events it’s an accessible and informative introduction, and a chance to meet some new people. If you have a date that you’d like to impress or treat, this would be a classy way of doing so.

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Images: my own and one selected from Pixabay.

 

Special post: University of Antwerp students discover a passion for perfume in their vodcast.

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As part of their English Professional Communication course within the University of Antwerp Master in Multilingual Professional Communication, Dutch-speaking students were asked to create a podcast or vodcast explaining how Antwerp entrepreneurs define luxury. Sixteen groups of students took part, and Nessascityblog gets to showcase one chosen vodcast (all about Le Labo Perfume store on Wapper) here! This assignment was set by Prof. Tom Van Hout and assisted by lecturer Stephanie Hughes. Congratulations to Rani, Ellen and Lotte: the students who made the selected vodcast, which you can read about and watch below.

Why did you choose Le Labo?

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perfume ingredients at Le Labo

For our assignment we had to find a venue that defined ‘luxury’. Upon entering the store, we were immediately overwhelmed by the kind of luxury that Le Labo embodies. We chose Le Labo for its simplicity as it is not lavishly decorated. The only element outside the store is a simple sign with Le Labo on. We share the opinion that this is a way of expressing luxury; one you might not expect. For example it does not contain a fancy interior with a lot of drama and champagne at the entrance. Le Labo obtains luxury by creating an experience for their customers, by focussing on what is most important for them: the scent. This focus on the experience is what got us hooked.

In your opinion, what makes Le Labo special?
Le Labo draws attention to their scents. They do not want to use overly-decorated bottles, promotions or advertisements. As they state on their website, they share the opinion that there are too many bottles of perfume, and not enough soulful fragrances. They emphasise the importance of the soul – formed through the intention with which a product is created and the attention with which it is prepared. In other words, Le Labo believes that the main focus should be on the experience. You can choose your own scent and they will hand-blend your bottle on the spot, while you can watch the whole process. The store also stresses their use of natural elements. Le Labo really wants to go back to basics, and they also make sure everyone is able to enjoy their perfumes by taking potential customer allergies into account.

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The team with Marty at Le Labo on Wapper

What advice would you give anyone wanting to make a podcast/ vodcast for the first time?

As a team, we were extremely lucky to find a place that we all really liked. From the beginning, we felt a strong connection with Le Labo. Additionally, Marty (the store supervisor and lab technician) said to us: “all three of you were really open and you could see your interest and excitement from the start. If you did not have that vibe, we, from Le Labo, would not have given you the freedom we gave to you now.” We stumbled upon this place that struck a passion within. Immediately, we wanted to know more. Therefore, we believe that one of the most important things is that you choose a subject that you are actually passionate about. If you are, it will be both a fun and educational process that you are eager to work on. Your passion and interest will also be noticed by people in the end result. Furthermore, it is important when you work in a group to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses. It is important to be able to complement and help each other throughout the process. Each one of us has different specialities and these complemented each other smoothly. As a result, we were able to create this fun group project that we are all very proud of.

Watch the vodcast made by Ellen, Rani & Lotte here:

The three students who created the Le Labo vodcast are:

Ellen Weeremans
Hi, my name is Ellen. Before I started my Masters in Multilingual Professional Communication, I studied an academic bachelor in Linguistics and Literature: English-Theatre, Film and Literature. MPC (Multilingual Professional Communication) sparked my interest as the course expand on concepts such as marketing and communication. For me to turn away from literature and start to learn something new entirely was exciting. I could now deepen my understanding of concepts that I had not heard about in the last three years. This was was both extremely scary and appealing. Right now, we are in the second semester and already I feel that I have learned so much more than I thought I would.

Rani Konings
Hello, my name is Rani. I studied Linguistics and Literature in English and Dutch. I am currently following the Master’s program in Multilingual Professional Communication (MPC) at the University of Antwerp. For me, MPC was a logical choice. I wanted something different and more challenging. The combination of professional communication and marketing gives you a wide range of possibilities. In my opinion, this Masters is an excellent way to direct your language skills to a more professional level. It prepares you well for future job opportunities.

Lotte Van Ende
Hello, my name is Lotte. I have a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Literature (English – Spanish) and am now studying the Master in Multilingual Professional Communication at the University of Antwerp. I chose MPC mostly because I was ready for something new and challenging. I have not regretted this choice for a single moment as MPC offers a very wide range of subjects. I am learning to communicate at a professional level and also get to know more about marketing and management. For me, studying MPC really prepares students for the future and opens the door to many different job opportunities.

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Special post: How An Antwerp Immigrant Changed The World In 1550

NEW EXHIBITION AT PLANTIN- MORETUS SHOWS THE CITY’S IMPORTANT ROLE IN PAVING THE WAY FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT.

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A trip to the Plantin Moretus museum (left) provided the inspiration for this guest post by Daniel McBrearty.

Are you deluged by data, fazed by fake news, or stressed out from trying to find a teaspoon of facts in a sea of information? What you need is some historical perspective, and Antwerp’s Plantin Moretus Museum is the perfect place to find it …

Christophe Plantin, a native Frenchman and Humanist who became a powerful Antwerp businessman, could reasonably be called the Steve Jobs of the 16th century. He founded one of the three most important printing presses in Europe, and by 1550 he was one of the biggest publishers in the world, with sixteen operational presses and employing fifty people. The technology he used, along with much of his considerable wealth and countless books, are lovingly preserved in the Plantin Moretus Museum, on the Vrijdagmaarkt.

As well as physical artefacts, the Museum has done a wonderful (and timely, given the impact of the internet on our own times) job of placing Moretus’s considerable influence in a historical context. Their current exhibition, “Baroque Book Design”, fuses the work of Rubens and others -as part of the city’s the publishing industry- with insightful observation on social conditions of the time.

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Antwerp was at the centre of an information revolution

After Plantin’s death, the business was taken over by Jan Moretus, his son-in-law, and the family continued to dominate European publishing for the next 150 years. The printing press was a real challenge to the Catholic church, which had relied on the inability of an illiterate public to interpret the Bible without the help of priests. Gutenberg’s invention broke forever that monopoly of belief.

Books – now twenty times faster to produce, and much cheaper- became more widely available. An information revolution as big as our own, was underway. Schools of language, medicine, science and religion serviced a knowledge-hungry public, and created huge demand, which the Plantin-Moretus family was more than willing to supply. With a technology based on pouring lead into stamped copper moulds to make type, which was then manually assembled into pages, their team of craftsmen produced, over several years, a staggering 500,000 copies of one small book of language exercises – this being just one of countless volumes from the house.

Revolutions of belief soon led to violence, followed by a formidable backlash from the Vatican. Europe was beset by rebellion and repression. Catholic Spain and the Protestant Netherlands went to war, and Antwerp caught right between them. As well as Bibles in many languages, The Plantin Press had been publishing translations of Latin and Greek philosophers, and works which spread new scientific research. But a crackdown from the church forced an end to the dissemination of such dangerous ideas. The Plantin-Moretus family, however, were clearly astute diplomats as well as businesspeople, managers, and technicians. Not only did they survive, they became at various times, official printers and typographers to the Dutch, the Spanish and the Church.

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The museum is also a favourite of my daughter

Then, as now, the real benefits of the new technology were not immediately felt by common people. In fact it took several hundred years, and much argument and bloodshed, before they led to real improvement in living conditions.

As well as his beautiful drawings and engraved copper plates, the Museum possesses many paintings by Rubens, who was one of the favourite illustrators used by the Moretus family. Everywhere you feel his portraits gazing at you. His subjects included (as well as the nobility and the clergy) workers at the house. For me, they show an honest astuteness which lesser artists lack – rather like a modern artist such as Milo Manara, he has the rare ability to capture something of the soul of his subjects.

Entrance to the Museum is inexpensive (6€ or 8€ depending on age), or free with an A-kaart. Staff are friendly and helpful, and on a weekday the space is fairly uncrowded. You can take refreshment in one of Vrijdaagmaarkt’s excellent cafes and restaurants and then stroll back in with no problem. Photography is permitted without flash.

So, if the internet revolution has left you dazed and confused, or if you simply fancy an entertaining, thought-provoking few hours, I highly recommend Plantin-Moretus Museum. After all, we’ve been here before, and it helps to be reminded of that.

Daniel McBrearty is a father, jazz clarinet and sax player, singer-songwriter and electronics whiz who has made his home in Antwerp since 2001.

Music website :  www.danmcb.com

Audio electronics : www.mcbeeaudiolabs.com

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The Ultimate A-Z of LGBT+ in Antwerp

The Ultimate A-Z of LGBTQ in Antwerp.

A guest post by Timothy Junes

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Timothy Junes (left) was born in Antwerp (1981) and still lives and works  here. He studied journalism and has written for LGBTQ media since 2000, both online and in print. His passions include LGBTQ news stories and travelling to new places. Nowadays he runs the Flemish language LGBT news blog Be Out and the English language travel blog Trip By Trip.

*

Antwerp has a long history of being a safe haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in Belgium. Let me introduce you, using the alphabet.

First, I’ll start with a disclaimer: this is not a ‘Complete Gay Guide to Antwerp’. That would be impossible since Pink Antwerp is constantly changing. Some blame the internet, some blame the economy and gentrification, some blame youth. There are many factors as to why LGBTQ oriented bars and cafés come and go. I should point out here that bars and cafés mostly cater to gay and bisexual men. Presently there’s no lesbian bar in town.

A

Active Company is Antwerp’s LGBTQ sports group. From athletics to swimming, from cycling to yoga, Active Company has it all. A great way to make friends.

Antwerp Pride is a highpoint of LGBTQ life in Antwerp. Four to five days to party, parade or attend a debate. Mark the second weekend of August in your calendar.

Coupled with Antwerp Pride, there is the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival. Exhibitions, performances, parties. While Antwerp Pride is more ‘party oriented’, the queer arts festival is more activist. Both work well together. First half of August.

MAS_regenboog_nacht
MAS museum lit up in Pride colours

B

The Bonaparte at the Grote Markt is a karaoke bar. But with a gay owner, it won’t surprise you there are drag nights and gay parties. Pannekoek on Sundays.

D

I’m not sure the managers of Den Draak like to call their bar a gay bar. Patrons are both LGBTQ and straight. It will throw a very gay Eurovision Song Contest viewing party, and it will also celebrate the Red Devils, Belgium’s football team.

Located at the Draakplaats, it’s very well integrated in the hipster, somewhat leftist neighbourhood of Zurenborg.

Café DeLux at Melkmarkt 16 is in the middle of it all. DeLux is what you could call a ‘mainstream gay bar’. Coffee and tea during the day, alcohol at night. Don’t forget in Belgium a café could both be a coffee and snacks place, and a bar!

E

Enig Verschil is the LGBTQ youth group of Antwerp. Flanders has a tradition of youth groups outside the scouting movement. For many LGBTQ’s in Flanders, such youth groups were a starting point.

F

Are you a student? Why not join De Flamingo’s? Student clubs in Belgium are not really like American style fraternities; they’re more open.  

H

H.I.M is a more or less monthly party concept. H.I.M is really ‘club scene’ as you’d imagine it: beats, shirtless men, flirting… People come from far and wide to attend.

The Hessenhuis at Hessenplein opened its doors in 1993. During the day it serves as the cafeteria of the event space Hessenhuis, but around 6PM the atmosphere changes and it becomes a gay bar.

HRHregegboogpadF

 

Het Roze Huis – çavaria Antwerpen (pictured above) is both a brick ‘pink house’ and an umbrella organisation for LGBTQ groups and associations in the Province of Antwerp. It organises the Antwerp Queer Arts Festival and L-week.

Each January, Het Roze Huis holds a New Year’s reception under the bridge of Draakplaats. An absolute must-attend event for LGBTQ’s in Antwerp. Beware! Due to engineering works on the bridge, the New Year’s reception will for once take place at De Roma. Mark 5 January 2019 in your calendar.

The offices are above Den Draak.

K

The Antwerp gay scene is not shy of kinky spots. The Boots in the Van Aertdtstraat and The Kinkys in de Lange Beeldekensstraat are too nice examples.

L

Leather & Fetish Pride Belgium in February accommodates lovers of leather, fetish and kinks. It consists of parties, socials and a fair. Darklands includes shops, workshops and activities for leather, fetish and kinks. If you open your eyes, you will definitely see men in leather, rubber and other fetishwear in the streets of Antwerp. The event mostly caters to men, but not exclusively.

There may not be L*-oriented bars in Antwerp but you can attend L-week in November. Ten days filled with activities, workshops and parties for women who like women. The asterisk stands for a broad interpretation of the word lesbian.

Q

Que Pasa in the Lange Koepoortstraat 1 is a latin drag queen bar. It organises performances and drag contests. It’s near one of the rainbow crossings.

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The Red & Blue was founded in 1997. Nowadays it’s called Cargo Club but ‘Red & Blue’ remains its gay brand. It’s the obvious party location and an icon in Antwerp.

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Sjalot & Schanul is a lesbian run restaurant behind City Hall. The address is Oude Beurs 12.  

SPEK (“bacon”) is a queer, ‘alternative’ party concept. Electro tunes, booze, cigarettes, other substances. Attracts queer, leftwing, hipster crowd.

Café Strange in the Dambruggestraat is the oldest, still open gay bar in town. Manager Armand Everaerts is well in his 80s but still serves you cheap beer. A special place.

Strangelove – A Queer Festival is a June based event. It combines film, performances and parties.

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T-day is a day of activities, workshops and meet-ups for trans* people, their friends and their families. It is organised by çavaria, the Flemish LGBTQ umbrella organisation.

Café Twilight used to be located in the Van Schoonhovenstraat or Rue Vaseline. In the 20th century, the Rue Vaseline is where all the action happened. Twilight closed there but rose like a phoenix at Theaterplein.

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The Unicorn Festival in July is not an exclusively gay event, but with such a name it clearly attracts LGBTQ people and their friends. Belgium is famous for its numerous summer festivals and Unicorn is one of them. It’s small but very cosy. It’s on Linkeroever (Left bank) and offers a great view of the Antwerp skyline.

 

All photos by Timothy Junes.

 

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Antwerp memories: buskers and street musicians in Antwerp – a guest post by Dave Llewellyn

Dave Llewellyn was part of the scenery on the streets of Antwerp between 1988 and 2012. Before the Metro played recorded music if you walked through Diamant, Plantin or Groenplaats the chances are you threw a couple of Belgian Francs (or latterly Euros) into his guitar case. Dave not only knows so many of the stories and the people who inhabit the Diamond City but is interwoven into many of them, as Antwerp became home for him and the families he started on the banks of the Schelde. Here he writes about his experiences and memories of his time in Antwerp:


My love affair with Belgium started with a portion of stoofvlees in Ieper that made it impossible to get the boat back to the UK from France, as we all got really bad food poisoning. Recovering before my family did, I realised that I really liked Belgian people so instead of heading for Oostende, I turned east towards the Diamond City arriving on a Thursday in 1988 just in time to rent a tiny flat on the Kattenberg in Borgerhout, from the priest on the Laar. I remember it was a Thursday because when I went out to get my car the next morning it had been replaced by hundreds of market stalls. Welcome to Belgium!

I had been a busker in France and looked forward to trying out some of my music for Belgian people. The first and most obvious difference I noticed was in the approach to bureaucracy and paperwork: France have a very “laissez faire” attitude to life. However, Belgian authorities need a paper for EVERYTHING, and in every “gemeente”. So having been stopped about five times by police on my first morning I found myself in the Diamant Metro where there were no police; just a couple of friendly security guards. We could finally make a living in the cultural car crash the locals call Antwaarp and become part of the blood that travels daily up the main arteries of the The Carnotstraat and the Leien, which when I arrived, still had the “kinderkopkes” on road surfaces into the centre, and the old town. 

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When I first arrived “straatmuzikanten” were  honoured as an art form and the quality was the best I have ever known; better than any other city I have ever played in. Each summer, the “terrasjes” would fill up with tourists and locals looking to be entertained whilst they relaxed in the sun with a “pintje” under the watchful gaze of Rubens who surveyed the square from his plinth in the centre of the Groenplaats.  Every busker would have their local and I settled in what at the time was called The Centra in the corner under the shadow of the Cathedral. It was run by a Dutchman who served trays of drinks on skeelers and I never witnessed him drop a thing in all the years I was there. Summers came and went, and in the winter we would go to a little buskers’ pub on the Kaai called the Muziekdoos run by Etienne who seemed to have been plucked straight out of 1967. The bar was cosy; the tables were barrels and they all had candles on them for ambience.  I remember one night when Stef Kamil Carlens in his pre Deus days had everyone dancing on the tables as he and another guy belted out a particularly bawdy Violent Femmes song. Those were the golden days.

Things changed drastically for street musicians in Antwerp and for the audiences on the terraces when new countries joined the EU. Unfortunately this caused some tension, and personally I do not think that audiences enjoyed the newly arrived musicians that much. The street music scene changed. Many of the real musicians left to go ply their craft in other cities. Others successfully formed bands: Deus, Zita Swoon, and Kiss My Jazz among others.

Me? I did something else…     

*     *     *

This picture shows a seat on The Groenplaats, informally known as “Buskers’ Bench”. Like me , you’ve probably walked past it many times without giving it a second thought. For Dave, it is strongly linked with his memories of musician and songwriter John Swift (“that was his bench”) who co-wrote the 1960s hit I Can’t Let Maggie Go. Behind the bench is a cafe/ bar called “De Kleine Post” -this was formerly Centra, mentioned above.

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Guest post: Five Places to Read and Relax in Antwerp

Timo is a teacher of English Language and Literature at an international school in the Antwerp area, and enjoys reading, cycling, and playing, recording and mixing music in his free time. He was one of the very first people to subscribe to Nessascityblog, and remains a loyal reader to this day. Timo is Dutch/ American, but has lived and worked in Antwerp for over a decade, and also plays in a local band (110). You can listen to his music here.

I would like to share with you some good locations for reading in the central Antwerp area. If you live in an apartment in the city, as I do, you’ll find that it is important to get out once in a while. I tend to go for walks, and sometimes bring a book with me. Here are a five of my favourite “walking & reading” locations.

  1. Harmoniepark

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About a two kilometre walk from Antwerp Central Station, Harmoniepark (left) is nestled next to the slightly bigger Koning Albertpark; the latter was once Antwerp’s prime location for a hanging! Harmoniepark is great for readers, as it has extended, comfortable wooden benches, both in the sun and shade. The Feestzaal Harmonie building is currently under renovation – scheduled to finish in 2020 – after which it will function as one of Antwerp’s districtshuizen (or town halls). During the summer months, you’ll notice there are a number of free sporting activities taking place in this park, including yoga, for adults and for children.

 

  1. Permeke Library

The Permeke library – about a 5 minute walk from Central Station – contains several good reading places. If you want a quiet  indoor area to read or study, try the upper floor inside the library. You do not need a membership card to enter and use the facilities, and summer opening hours are from 10 am to 5 pm Mondays to Saturdays, and from 10 am to 2 pm on Sundays. Do keep in mind the opening times change in winter. A hidden gem is the vast CD and DVD collection in the back on the first floor. On sunny days, you can use the reading courtyard out back (leestuin)  and if you prefer having a coffee or even lunch with reading, you can visit Cafe Kubus right across from the library entrance. This is the only cafe I know of in Antwerp where you are actively encouraged to study and read.

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Kubus Cafe & reading courtyard at Permeke Library

  1. “Den Botaniek”  – botanical garden

Den Botaniek” is a tiny but beautiful botanical garden located next to St Elisabeth Hospital, about a 15 minute walk from Central Station. Sometimes referred to as “the garden of poets”, this is an oasis for readers who like quiet, serene spaces. There are benches throughout the park, and, if you want to stretch your legs, you can visit the greenhouse (a warm place during winter!) or admire the gorgeous Koi fish in the garden’s ponds. Den Botaniek is open to the public from 8 am to 8 pm during summer, and until 5.30 pm during winter.

 

  1. Antwerp Zoo

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Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp has been investing a lot in improving its zoo, and one of my new favourite spaces is the small square just inside the zoo’s main entrance. Access to this area is free. There are numerous benches, and it is surprisingly quiet, given its central location next to Antwerp’s main station. Do keep in mind that the gates to the free area close with the zoo’s closing hours. Inside the zoo itself, there are many places to relax and read as well. If you are interested in this, I suggest you look into their year pass options. If you have children, the family zoo pass is a good deal, given the zoo contains a large playground and several cafes serving relatively cheap food and drink, with a 10% discount for card holders or “abonnees”.

  1. Zaha Hadidplein & Willemdok area

I’m cheating a little bit here by combining two different places, but they are very similar in atmosphere and relatively close together. The Antwerp Port Building, designed by the late award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is striking and controversial- some people love it; others don’t. There is a big open space underneath the building, with great views of the city and some of its docks. Personally, I think this area could do with a few more places to sit, but there are some stone benches by the waterside, providing a great location to read and relax. Do keep in mind this is slightly further out if you live in the centre of town; it will take you about 45 minutes to walk from the station, but it is well worth a visit. When heading back south and into the centre of town, you’ll find another reading haven: the attractive Willemdok area, with its many benches and great views of the MAS building.

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I hope you will enjoy some of these mostly free places and read in Antwerp. Next time you feel you need to get out of your apartment or house, why not carry book or e-reader with you, and perhaps even leave your phone at home?

 

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10 things you shouldn’t forget when becoming an Expat in Antwerp: a special post by Laura Soave, aka Nonnative blog

10 top tips you might find handy if you are new (or newish!) to the City of Antwerp.

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1. Don’t forget to ask for help.   
In Antwerp you’ll find so many communities for each nationality that you can easily reach on different social networks. Use these tools when you need help. Ask politely for info: you’ll find better allies here, than anywhere else.
See: Expats in Antwerp group on Facebook or go to Language café events like at
2. Keep in contact with friends and family.  
This might sound cheesy, but life doesn’t stop for them just because we’re away. They get old, have babies, they move on. You might want to ensure that you hear from them regularly. It’s just a little more effort that you have to make, than if you still lived close to them.
Try: apps like  Skype
3. Learn the local language. 
This might sound silly when living in a English-friendly country, but learning some Flemish might give you advantages you didn’t consider before…. and don’t forget that leaving a shop or the post office with a smile, is also a positive way of connecting with your new neighbours.
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4. Keep your mind open.  
Not everything you’re used to is better than the Belgian culture that is hosting you. Keep your mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing everyday things.
Find out about family support on Kind en Gezin
Get out and about with a Velo citybike
5. Make local friends too.  
Explore the international community in the city you’re living, but don’t forget to make friends with Antwerpenaars too. They don’t have to become your best friends yet, you need them to help you better understand the society, to feel less misplaced. when someone explains a local joke to you, it can help you feel more included.
Visit a local library
Join a local sports activity.
6. Learn about history. cathedral 
History is what makes a city big or small. It’s number one evaluation element to figure out whether a city is interesting or not. Never ignore this important aspect while being part of Antwerp community. It could be finding a local guide, going to a museum and reading the little guide book or reading some history books at the library, etc. History is what makes everything start.
See: Visit Antwerp website and check out the page about Antwerp Museums
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7.  Sharing is caring.  
Some people might seem less interested in you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share the traditions of your own culture. If you listen and respect Belgian culture, locals will appreciate every once in a while being introduced to an aspect of your culture too. It doesn’t have to be big; it could be something small like baking something typical for your office.
8. Avoid negative comparisons.   
If you are about to start a new journey in Antwerp, try to be positive about your new environment, and avoid negative comparisons. People around you should accept you for who you are, where you come from and what you stand for. In return, give the host culture a real chance to introduce itself.
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9. Never miss an opportunity to have new encounters. 
You are never really alone if you surround yourself with new friends. If people you don’t know well invite you for an activity or an event in the city where you live, try to attend. Even if you’re not going to have the time of your life every time, it’s important to participate in as many events as possible and meet as many people as possible.
See Uit in Vlaanderen website  for “what’s on” info, or join Internations, or a community group in Hoplr.
10. Never settle down.
Keep exploring Antwerp; never give up the chance of finding something new you weren’t aware of. Be amazed, like a child that sees everything everyday as if it’s the first time.

 

About the blogger

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Laura Soave (nonnative blog)

Laura Soave is an Antwerp blogger and designer from Italy. Check out her blog: nonnative and find her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter  

Would you like to write a guest post about your experiences (or knowledge) of Antwerp? contact me on nessascityblog@gmail.com. I’d like to hear your Antwerp story.

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Guest Post: Laura Soave, designer and blogger from Italy writes about how there is no place like home …

Laura Soave is an Antwerp blogger and designer from Italy. Check out her blog: nonnative and find her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter  Read her story here:-

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No Place Like Home …

Breathless, I’m completely breathless, not because I’m admiring a beautiful view from a fancy skyscraper in some fancy big city like New York. No, the reason why my ex-smoker lungs are loudly screaming is because I have just ascended 65 stairs (yes, I counted) just so I could reach the top floor of a building in Kipdorpvest, a street in the heart of this small city. And all of this effort just so I could visit the last apartment available te huur (to rent). That day I made my first big decision in a foreign country: quit smoking! This is one of the first memories I have of moving to Antwerp and one of the first time I saw Leopold de Waelplaats. I thought it was one of the most charming places I had ever seen: foggy, a little grey, but incredibly charming. I remember I was sitting in this café while waiting to check the last apartment for the day. It has been a long time since I’ve thought of that first day in this strange, new land.

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Leopold de Waelplaats

My name is Laura and I am an Italian from Napoli living in Antwerp since 2011. When I moved here with my Italian husband we did it to get a better life, sure. But we weren’t running away from La Bella Italia; we were homesick everyday, and we still are. Were we leaving everything behind – family, friends, our apartment – in order to try this new experience that might get us a better job and a better future? The hope for better opportunities fused with a curiosity to explore a new culture won the battle between “shall we go?” and “we’d  better stay”.  

So the answer was yes. Even though during my first days of Belgian-life I perceived some kind of hostility, I wanted to feel part of the culture and understand the everyday mechanisms of a society that I could not yet comprehend. While observing people crossing the street I couldn’t help but wonder how could they go around with just a light t-shirt or shorts while an unstoppable rain was coming down! And as soon as a timid ray of sunlight emerged, everybody was sitting outside, no matter what temperature: that was a complete mystery to me. But yes, I now forgot cars and traffic and rode around Antwerp on my purple bike, crossing streets of a city so diverse that it can make your head spin. I noticed there is less queuing at the bank or at the post office, and less stress caused by things like late buses, however, you’ll feel the need to take advantage of enjoying a day outdoor in the sun, because it might be the last you’ll see in a long time. Due to this and many other reasons, I became passionate about this place. I started working as designer, began to attend Dutch classes and discover more of this new culture. I made both Belgian and international friends.

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When you live abroad for a while, you realise your life will always be split into two perfect halves. Half of me is still in my hometown; and then there is other half that has tuned out of my own culture a little, and has adjusted to a new way of life and new rules. At first, this new feeling created a sense of non-belonging, not belonging to Antwerp but also not to Napoli, because not living my culture for so long made me forget what’s it like to live there. A dawning awareness enabled me to at last realise that I do belong to both places at the same time, so to make a better record of my life here and experiences, I recently started a blog about Antwerp (nonnative.blog), which is a collective of expat voices. Nonnative is a place where people can write about this city from the expat point of view; it’s like an online home.

Sometimes I think of what Dorothy says “There is no place like home” right before clicking her heels for three times to go home. Home can be in two different places at the same time: in one place you have your heart, and in the other your have your soul. One cannot live without the other.

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Inspired to write a guest blog post telling your Antwerp story? Please get in touch via nessascityblog@gmail.com -I’d love to hear from you.

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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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