This weekend in Antwerp: 24th, 25th & 26th November

hellokitty
Hello Kitty in Lego (Brickmania)

There’s a lot on this weekend so don’t let November blues keep you in -here’s your GOOGLE MAP with the locations mentioned in this post.

Over Saturday (10am -6pm) and Sunday (10am -5pm) it’s Brickmania at Waagnatie- an absolute must for Lego fans. We’ve been to this in the past and always had a good time, even though it can get really busy. It’s 5 euros in (free for kids under 6) and some of the Lego constructions are just amazing. There are all sorts of beautiful scenes and building recreated in Lego, as well as mechanised constructions with moving parts, as well as Disney and film characters in Lego. It’s also a chance to buy for Sinterklaas or Christmas, for the Lego-lovers in your life.

1WvdS_Vierkant beeld + logoFoodies – Week van de Smaak finishes up this weekend – various food-related activities, workshops and tastings are taking place in the Antwerp area, based around the theme of healthy eating and reducing food-waste. Here are the activities taking place in and around Antwerp.

 

Also over the whole weekend is the annual stock sale of books at Zuiderpershuis -De Markies book sale is free entry, and also a good tip for reduced books if you need to buy gifts for a reader. Most books are in Dutch, with some (e.g. non-fiction, art) in English, and there is usually a good range of kids’ books for your younger readers in Dutch. Doors open at midday.

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Browsing at De Markies stock sale 

 Friday

It’s Black Friday in Antwerp. More than that I do not know and am not prepared to research, as anything that I have ever seen that is to do with Black Friday looks absolutely terrifying. Late night shopping on Kloosterstraat (many shops open until 22h) might be a lot less stressful.

kloosterstraatsoiree

Critical Mass has an important safety theme this month as recent cyclist casualties need to be kept in the spotlight of current traffic safety debates in Antwerp. Assemble on Theaterplein at 6pm -the theme is ‘light in the darkness‘, emphasising the importance for cyclists to be seen, and bikes to be lit -especially at this time of year, so wear your fluo and put your brightest bike lights on.

Saturday

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Mission to Seafarers Christmas Bazar

Antwerp’s Mission to Seafarers holds its yearly Christmas Bazar this year on the Noorderlaan for the first time. Head to the Antwerp Harbour Hotel if you would like some British Christmas cards, festive foods and other Christmas goodies this year.

Markies Bookmarket & Brickmania continue (see above)

Sunday

Across Brussels and Flanders it’s Dag van de Wetenschap (Science Day) with lots of free and fascinating events in and around Antwerp. Last year, we spent most of the day in Kavka where they learnt about robots, had a go at taking blood and learned about bacteria on hands, but there are lots of other activities for kids and adults across the city.

In The Roma Theatre there’s a kids’ rommelmarkt -everything for kids: toys, games, books and clothes. The stands are also run by kids, and it’s just 1 euro in (50cts for children).

Markies Bookmarket & Brickmania continue (see above)

The weather continues to be typically Novemberish -quite cold with slight chance of showers throughout the weekend.

Miscellaneous

If you are looking for times to take your child/ren to see Sinterklaas, he is around at the following central locations over the coming days:
sintchocola

Mercado on Wednesday 29th from 1pm

Grand Bazar on the 2nd December 1- 5pm

Meir and Grand Bazar on the 3rd December

The last Wednesday of the month (29th) means the City of Antwerp Museums are free.

Shops will be open on Sundays throughout December in Antwerp.

If you have younger kids, they may like to write a letter to Sinterklaas. This is organised each year by Bpost. Post the letter(s) in special Sint letterboxes (there’s one in the Quellinstraat post office) before 29th November. Don’t forget to ensure that the child’s name and home address is clearly written on the outside of the envelope, so that the child can receive a letter back and a surprise from the Sint. You do not need a stamp. If your child doesn’t write, you can send a Babbel Brief!

If you are new to this tradition, be aware that it takes place on the 6th December and is VERY important to the children of Belgium. You can read about it here.

I was recently contacted by Sandra from Colectivo Amorika. This is a group which offers cultural and arts activities for Spanish speaking families in Antwerp, as well as conversation lessons for intermediate and advanced non-native speakers. They are based in Borgerhout and you can see their program below

Noviembre
Colectivo Amorika

De Collectie is a means by which you can give away your second hand clothing, shoes, accessories (belts, scarves, gloves, hats) and bedding if they are in good condition. They will be passed to people who need them in Belgium and abroad. You can arrange to have them picked up or can bring them to a collection point. Very handy if you are planning a clear out before the festive season. You can find more information about how this works in Antwerp on De Collectie Antwerpen site.

If you haven’t done so yet, have a read of this recently pressed guest post by Laura, the creator of the lovely Nonnative Antwerp blog, and do get in touch if you would like to contribute your own Antwerp story.

I have also guest-blogged for Nonnative. Read my restaurant review here .

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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Find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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Instagram

Facebook (Events in Antwerp: in conjunction with London Calling)

Twitter &

Pinterest

This weekend in Antwerp: 18th & 19th November

Such an exciting weekend (especially if you are a kid)!
HERE’S YOUR GOOGLE MAP!

It’s Eco Builders 2017 on both Saturday and Sunday -this is an event for you if you have a home-project underway or are planning one: sign up for tours around project homes (both new-build and restorations) to get ideas about how it is done in an eco-friendly and energy-efficient way.

Foodies -it’s Week van de Smaak over the weekend and continuing until the 26th November. Workshops, events, markets and readings for food lovers. Here’s the complete programme in Borgerhout.

Saturday

sinterklaassweets
Pepernoten and a chocolate letter (traditional Sinterklaas sweets)

Hij komt! Hij Komt!

Sinterklaas arrives in Antwerp! He is expected to arrive on his traditional Steamboat at Steenplein at 1pm and will make his way from Steenplein via Suikerrui to Grote Markt, accompanied by his usual jaunty entourage. This is usually a very busy event -expect crowds and possibly a fair bit of waiting to see the Sint. To be honest, I have found that the wait can be a bit challenging for the very youngest children, especially if the weather is not great (although this year it is predicted to be dry). His annual appearance and speech on the balcony of the Town Hall is expected at 14.45. This is the thrilling moment when the city learns if there are any naughty children in Antwerp, or whether they can all expect gifts this year. If you can’t make it, you can follow the action live on TV on Ketnet.

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Crowds waiting for the Sint to appear on the balcony at Grote Markt

 

At De Roma theatre from 9am it’s Kraakvers#3 – a local market for fresh goods and locally made products.

There’s a Vinyl fair at Plein Publiek from 11am -4.30pm … perfect if you are a vinyl lover or need to shop for the vinyl lover in your life as the festive season approaches. 

Swaajp
Swaajp Impro. Photo: Armin Zarbock

For evening entertainment with a difference, head to Zaal Zirkus for some impro theatre with Swaajp! whose guests for this show are Inbal Lori and Tim Orr who take their inspiration from photographs provided by the audience, rather than verbal suggestions.

 

Sunday

It’s a day of arts activities for children: Kunstendag voor Kinderen. These take place across Flanders. Here are the events in the Antwerp area. Click on ‘meer info’ to find put the costs of participation (most are low-cost; some are free), age range and whether you need to reserve beforehand.

It’s the monthly secondhand book and comic fair on De Coninckplein -in front of the library- from 10am

Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty nippy out this weekend (max temperatures 8 degrees) but it should be dry, with the a slight possibility of some showers, especially around Sunday evening.

 sintletterboxMiscellaneous

If you have younger kids, they may like to write a letter to Sinterklaas. This is organised each year by Bpost. Post the letter(s) in special Sint letterboxes (there’s one in the Quellinstraat post office) before 29th November. Don’t forget to ensure that the child’s name and home address is clearly written on the outside of the envelope, so that the child can receive a letter back and a surprise from the Sint. You do not need a stamp. If your child doesn’t write, you can send a Babbel Brief!

If you are new to this tradition, be aware that it takes place on the 6th December and is VERY important to the children of Belgium. You can read about it here.

I was recently contacted by Sandra from Colectivo Amorika. This is a group which offers cultural and arts activities for Spanish speaking families in Antwerp, as well as conversation lessons for intermediate and advanced non-native speakers. They are based in Borgerhout and you can see their program below

Noviembre
Colectivo Amorika

De Collectie is a means by which you can give away your second hand clothing, shoes, accessories (belts, scarves, gloves, hats) and bedding if they are in good condition. They will be passed to people who need them in Belgium and abroad. You can arrange to have them picked up or can bring them to a collection point. Very handy if you are planning a clear out before the festive season. You can find more information about how this works in Antwerp on De Collectie Antwerpen site.

If you haven’t done so yet, have a read of this recently pressed guest post by Laura, the creator of the lovely Nonnative Antwerp blog, and do get in touch if you would like to contribute your own Antwerp story.

I have also guest-blogged for Nonnative. Read my restaurant review here .

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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Find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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Twitter &

Pinterest

This weekend in Antwerp: 27th, 28th & 29th October

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Pumpkins at Antwerp market (Theaterplein, Saturdays)

Here is your GOOGLE MAP for all the locations mentioned in this weekend’s post!

Plein Publiek celebrates two years at the Fierensblokken this weekend. There’s also a fair amount of Hallowe’en events on, although Hallowe’en itself falls on Tuesday.

One option for some Hallowe’en entertainment would be the BATS production of Dracula. Tickets for the 31st are sold out but there are still some left for the 28th, 29th & 30th. I have already heard very positive reviews of this production!

DraculaBats

Friday

Critical Mass takes place as usual for the last Friday of the month, and this is a special edition for children and young cyclists. Be aware that this route will, however, comprise three sites where cyclists have been killed in accidents lately in Antwerp, so that flowers can be laid at these places. If you’re a cyclist, do be especially careful as the weather gets darker, and especially at crossings (all the recent fatalities occurred at crossings).

Saturday

The Antwerp Fire Services celebrate their 200th birthday with an open door day at their main depot on Noorderlaan, between 9.30 am- 5pm. Ideal for a visit if you have a child who aspires to be a fire-fighter.

It’s the legendary An Sibhin Hallowe’en Quiz! General knowledge quiz in fancy dress, in English. Teams of max. 5 players – 5€ per person entry. The quiz starts at 8pm.
Reserve your team by messaging the An Sibhin Facebook page  or in person at the bar.

London Calling are celebrating 50 Years of Sergeant Pepper at Ampere! SuperEarly bird tickets are sold out but a few early birds are left at 7 euros… Otherwise it’s 11 euros. DOORS OPEN: 10.30

sgtpepper

Sunday

There is a free Dia de los Muertos event at MAS museum from 3pm on the 8th floor. It is suggested that visitors bring a photo or object that evokes the memory of a lost loved one.  There’s music, and a free visit to the expo on the 8th floor, as well as some activities for children.

The weather this weekend is likely to be mixed with showers (particularly on Sunday) and maximum temperatures of around 15 degrees.
Miscellaneous

Wednesday 1st November is a public holiday (All Saints) and there will be a Goegekregen Rommelmarkt all day (9am- 6pm) on Theaterplein.

On MONDAY 30th Oct: I’m looking forward to pressing another guest post – this time from Laura, an Italian who lives in Antwerp and is the the writer of Nonnative blog

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Don’t forget to get in touch via nessascityblog@gmail.com if you would like to write a post telling your Antwerp story.

I have also guest-blogged for Nonnative. Read my restaurant review here.

Antwerp has been included in the Lonely Planet Top Ten Cities for 2018!

For kids: you may be pleased to know that the indoor playground above Mercado (Groenplaats) has re-opened. It will be open on Saturdays and Sundays (and during school holidays) from 10am- 6pm and on Wednesdays from 1pm -6pm.

Find me on social media, where additional events and locations are also posted:

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This Weekend: September 29th – 1st October

*NEXT POST OCTOBER 5TH*

 

This weekend it’s all about two-day events:

SO HERE’S THE MAP…

AFW2017
pic courtesy of Antwerp Fashion Weekend (2017)


FASHION
: It is Antwerp Fashion Weekend! There are four key areas to shop and enjoy events like fashion shows, because AFW coincides with Weekend van de Klant in Belgium, and Sunday shopping.

ART: Continuing this weekend on Saturday and on Sunday is Open Ateliers which offers the opportunity to see artists and their work in the context of their own workshops and ateliers. On the OA website, you can select the medium which most interests you and pick which ateliers and art spaces you would like to see, or you can head to Zuiderperhuis between 11am and 6pm (on both Saturday and Sunday) for an overview of the whole event.

openateliers2017

 

FOOD: Also over both days it’s food fest Smaakmeesters: tastings, walks and workshops at various locations round the city. The four key locations are Groenplaats, Leopold de Waelplaats, Nassaustraat and Vrijdagmarkt, with programmes for Saturday and Sunday.

BEER: If beer is more your cup of tea. then the Modeste Beer Festival is on over at the de Koninck Brewery from 11am -7pm. I like this one -many different beers, not too pricey and a very informal atmosphere. If the weather is nice, there’s space to hang out outside too.

Friday

This week’s “and now for something slightly different” spot is occupied by this vernissage at MAF from 7.30pm (Keistraat 1, 2000 Antwerp).  I have to admit a certain bias here: I own a large trunk painted by Djuna, and although it is assigned the inglorious function of containing my dirty laundry, it is very beautiful.

eros and thanatos 2

The last Friday of the month means Critical Mass: assemble on Theaterplein at 6pm as usual -it’s the back-to-college edition, but everyone is welcome, as ever.

Or you could go and get your household items (PCs, electrical goods, furniture or sewing work) fixed for free at The Repair Café, ‘Twerkhuys, Borgerhout between 4 and 7pm.

Saturday

There’s a food fest on Jezusstraat (off Meir) from 10am -10pm to coincide with the Antwerp Fashion Weekend, while Grand Bazar shopping centre has a surprise offer for their Dag van de Klant between 10am- 6.30pm.

Sunday

sfz
Shops in Stadsfeestzaal

It’s the first Sunday of the month, so Antwerp shops are open for continued enjoyment of AFW, and general shopping.

A dry, mild weekend is forecast with some sun and temperatures of around 16 degrees. Friday afternoon/ evening will be warmest, and might be the best time for one more “terasje”…

Miscellaneous

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

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This weekend: 15th, 16th & 17th September

Next post: Thursday 21st September

 

HERE’S THE GOOGLE MAP

AND HERE’S ANOTHER MAP OF THE CAR-FREE AREA ON SUNDAY.

Friday

MollysF
Molly’s Irish Pub: Jezuietenrui 4

Swing by Molly’s Irish Pub -they’re celebrating a year under the management of Audrey and Bartek. Live music on Friday night from 7 -more on Sunday.

Part of Antwerp festival is still on, finishing up on Sunday

Saturday

Zuiderburen” is a new street festival taking place (also on Sunday) at the square in front of the fine art museum. Local bars and restaurants (Ellis Burger, Lucy Chang, Sum Sum, FinJan, Tartino Zuid, Poule & Poulette, Zaowang) will be taking part, and there will be music from cover bands and other live artists. Zuiderbuuren starts at 11am with a free aerobics session.

It’s the Haven Challenge –  starts at 1pm.

Sunday

AutovrijF
Autovrij (car-free) Day in Antwerp

Antwerp is Car Free all day Sunday, so don’t attempt to drive into the city centre that day. Instead, the streets of the centre and old town will be open for everyone to enjoy by foot, bike, wheelchair or other form of personal non-motorised transport. There is loads to do with plenty of stands and activities along Meir (where there will be an info point) and in other squares. Residents may also sell off their unwanted goods on the streets on car free day.  There is always plenty for kids to enjoy.

… and you could swing by Grote Markt from midday for lunch at Eva VZW’s Longest Veggie Table: bring your own picnic or buy from the stands which are serving this event.

Last chance to enjoy Open- air swimming pools today.

The party continues at Molly’s with Beatles covers from midday.

On de Conninckplein (in front of Permeke Library) it’s the monthly second-hand book and comics fair from 10am.

And Goegekregen are in the Stadspark from 9am -second-hand, retro fleamarket with a chilled social vibe, so usually there’s affordable food and drink available. I’ve even seen people getting a 5 euro haircut at this edition of the popular local fleamarket.

After a windy and autumnal week, the weekend also looks pretty variable with showers expected throughout the weekend. There will be dry and sunnier periods too though. Temps from around 15 – 17 degrees.

Miscellaneous

ThinkPinkrun
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.

 

If you are sad about the closing of summer bars round Antwerp, then there is good news from Bar Noord (Park Spoor Noord) -it will be remaining open until 22nd October and will continue to hold events. Check their website and Facebook page for details!

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

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This weekend: 8th, 9th & 10th September

Friday

Heres the GOOGLE MAP for this post, and a few options for kicking off your weekend:

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Flying Pig is at Waagnatie from 5pm until midnight: this is a Part of Antwerp event. Part of Antwerp is a 10-day festival comprising of various events taking place in the Eilandje area of the city. A varied program including food, sport, music and cultural activities can be found here. Some events are ticketed but many are free, or are for spectators (such as the Dragon Boat Festival and  the Haven Challenge (next weekend) or the fireworks.

Antwerp art space Extra City re-opens after a refurb with the exhibition ‘Extra Citizen’ at 7pm. There are additional events over the weekend, and also as part of Heritage Day on Sunday. Find the full program on their Facebook page. Extra City is free.

NB: If you were planning to head to Aper’eau or HAP food festival, these events have unfortunately been cancelled due to expected bad weather.

Saturday

hetpaleisrefurbF
Facelift underway at Het Paleis

Het Paleis youth & children’s theatre reopens its doors after a refurb on Saturday evening at 6pm. The re-opening celebrations continue on Sunday too. Het Paleis offers theatre expperiences (plays and workshops) for children of all ages and this is a good chance to see the coming programme, as well as to join in the activities and see the new-look theatre and café.

 

 

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It’s the annual Damse Feesten in the Dam area to the north of the city. Various fun wheel races (Dam Plein), music, food, entertainment (Dam Plein) and a second hand market (Lange Lobroekstraat)  to be enjoyed at this popular neighbourhood street party, for locals of all ages. Plenty for kids and adults

 

Sunday

It’s Open Monumenten Dag (Heritage Day). An annual Flanders event -the largest one day event of its kind -with lots going on in Antwerp and the surrounding area, of course. A huge variety of cultural locations will be opening their doors and showcasing what they offer: libraries, theatre, music venues, archives, museums and ateliers to name but a few. Look for the ‘vlieg’ sign for activities and venues with activities and exhibits of particular interest to kids.

The (re)opening party of Het Paleis continues, with a Family Day at the kids’ theatre on Theaterplein, from 11am.

MvMF
Markt van Morgen

Swan Market lifestyle and design market will be on Grote Markt from 11am until 6pm.

… 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.

And on Dageraadplaats there will be a big second hand/ fleamarket  from 9am -6pm.

 

 

sunday_matinee

 

Alternatively, dance the afternoon and evening away at Bar Nord’s Sunday Matinee, from 2pm. It’s large covered area means that rain can’t spoil play.

The weather continues to become more autumnal with possibilities of showers on Friday and Saturday (afternoon). Sunday could well be dry all day. Temperatures remain mild though (around 17 degrees).

Miscellaneous

ThinkPinkrun
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).

If you are sad about the closing of summer bars round Antwerp, then there was good news fro Bar Noord (Park Spoor Noord) this week -it will be remaining open until 22nd October and will continue to hold events. Check their website and Facebook page for details!

Open- air swimming pools are open for one more week until 17th September.

Race for the Cure image courtesy of Think Pink; Sunday Matinee pic from Bar Noord; thanks to Damse Feesten for the info poster pic. 

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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Guest post: Dolrish Aguillon, vlogger and nurse.

BEING AN EXPAT

What’s it like being an expat? What are struggles you’re likely to face when you leave your country of origin? How would you start a new life when all the things you’ve cherished, treasured and loved are 10, 718 kilometres away?

I am Dolrish Aguillon, a Filipino. And this is my story.

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Graduating, in 2011

It’s September 2011, and I’ve just got my license to practise as a registered nurse when I decide to leave everything behind and go to Belgium. The reason is to have immediate work and earn. My mother was already working here so bringing me from the Philippines wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t have much time to prepare, to say goodbye to my friends and loved ones. I’ll never forget the day when the plane took-off: I was crying like a baby;  it hurts so deeply.

The first week of staying here was exciting and full of promise. I was curious and anxious at the same time. The separation, anxiety and sadness came after a month and it lasted for almost four months. Every night before I went to sleep I would think about how life might have been if I hadn’t left The Philippines. However,  I used all my uncertainties as a fuel to become a better person and to succeed. Here, I’d like to share the things which totally caught me off-guard when I came here:

LANGUAGE

Learning Dutch or any foreign language isn’t that simple. During my first months here, I experienced the frustration of not understanding others, and not being understood. I’ve gone to different evenings schools, followed intensive courses (university and adult courses) just to learn the language. After four years, I got my level 5 certificate from Linguapolis in Antwerp.

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MAKING FRIENDS AND MEETING PEOPLE

What makes it harder is the fact that you don’t know anyone in the city. There is no one with whom you can spend time and enjoy activities. There is no one who would give you a tour of the city, nor advise you on how to live and survive there. Being new to a country, without acquaintances, is hard.

I have made friends through attending Dutch lessons, going to events and activities in Antwerp and by joining groups like Expats in Antwerp on Facebook. My friends are mostly foreigners, like myself.

FOOD

All of us can relate to the experience of suddenly not be able to get the foods we are used to. I didn’t eat much potato before. I am used eating rice and noodles; they have both here but it was seldom cooked at my new home. One dish I really miss is chicken adobo (chicken prepared with soy sauce and bay leaves) – a typical Filipino food, usually served with rice.

WEATHER

Belgium is known to have pretty terrible weather; a lot of rain, cold, wind and snow. You can’t plan anything without consulting the weather first. This is a problem I never had when I was in the Philippines, so it really took me some time to get used to it.

CULTURE

Different country, different culture. What do I expect? I had to accept, mingle and respect the new culture I found myself in. Throughout the years I have seen a lot of Belgian culture and their way of living. I would say that they are very organised and careful in all aspects of their lives. Something that we Filipinos don’t have. We are used to living day by day; not worrying about what tomorrow may bring.

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Dolrish in 2017 – ready to vlog!

Those are the 5 things what made my integration process challenging here Belgium. I wish I knew those things  before I came here and had researched more deeply about Belgium, its people and  its culture. And for these reasons I decided to produce a Youtube channel which gives insights and tips about being an expat – not only in Belgium but also in general. I make 1-2 videos per week, so don’t forget to check out my channel

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Vlog posts on Dolrish’s Youtube channel

Inspired by Dolrish’s post?

If you’d like to contribute and tell your story, please get in touch via nessascityblog@gmail.com

If you are on Facebook, you might also like to check out Expats in Antwerp and connect with people from all over the world who have made Antwerp their home.

This Weekend: 5th, 6th & 7th May

NEXT POSTS:
Guest blogger Dolrish, Monday evening, 8th May
Next ‘Weekend’ post: Thursday 11th May

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As the weather gets warmer, festivals are starting up and summer bars are opening!

Here’s the GOOGLE MAP for this weekend.

This amateur arts festival also concludes this weekend at various locations in Antwerp and in surrounding areas like Ekeren. Check the programme to find an event which interests you!

Friday

Summer bar, Bar Jardim opens for the summer season at 5pm with drinks, tapas and a BBQ. Bar Paniek opened last weekend.

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And BATS vzw hold their monthly Open Evening where all are welcome to come along and find out about the upcoming theatrical programme or about getting involved in English speaking theatre in Antwerp.

Saturday

This weekend it’s Festiveuzzel in Berchem today and also on Sunday. Tickets are 10 euros and under-12s go free.

fblogo left festivalOver the water, in Linkeroever it’s Left Festival  which is free, and kid friendly. There will also be a fleamarket, kids entertainment and food trucks. There’s even a Highland Games, for teams of 6-9 people. You can register your team via the site (costs 25 euros per team). And if you are a townie who has never taken the beautiful  St Anna tunnel -by foot or by bike -under the river, Left Festival is a good reason to do so.

It’s a good day to head down to your local second hand shop with clean usable items that you no longer need because it’s Dag Van de Gever -the second hand shops are open to receive you and your donations with an event that celebrates those who donate to the Kring winkels by offering some chocolate and a bunch of discount vouchers for in the shops and elsewhere. The largest second hand store in Antwerp is on St Jorispoort (29).

 

Sunday

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Shopping in Stadsfeestzaal (Meir)

It’s the first Sunday of the month, so shops will be open for Sunday shopping.

From 1pm -10pm there is a Turkish Cultural day  (2600 Turkije) in Berchem at the Cultuur Centrum.

And the Sunday garage sales at Steegsken 6 have been extended to continue throughout May (11am- 6pm).

Markt van Morgen is also on Klooster Straat from midday.

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And at Het Eiland there is a mini-flea market hosted by Het Eiland and Ieder Zenne Meug, free, from 11am -6pm

The weather is predicted to be warm and dry this weekend -although sometimes cloudy – with top temperatures of 19 degrees.

Miscellaneous

Coming up: Belmodo Fashion Days

Check out the newly re-opened Museum of Modern Art (MuHKA)

And if you are looking for information about other Belgian music festivals this summer here’s a list.

Don’t forget to find and follow Nessascityblog on …

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Next week – Look out for a special blog post: Nessascityblog first guest post, from a reader about living and working in Antwerp. Feel inspired to write a guest post of your own? Do get in touch via the About page.

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This weekend: 13th, 14th & 15th January

 —–NEXT POST THURSDAY 19TH JANUARY—–

If you’ve struggled with early starts again, and  your first days back at work, you might -like me – be inclined to spend the entire weekend sleeping. However, there are a few things definitely worth getting out of bed for, although I get the feeling there is a bit of a lull after the winter festivities.

***Here is the GOOGLE MAP with the places mentioned on this post***

Friday

MAF will be holding a vernissage for this exhibition starting at 8pm at their new location on Keistraat.

Later from 9pm there is a free mod all-nighter at Bar Gloed.

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Saturday

The first ‘rommelmarkt’ (second hand market) of the year will be at St Jansplein from 9am

It’s the yearly Christmas tree burning just over the water on Frederik van Eedenplein. Starts at 6.30, and there will be drinks, and live music from cover band Uncle Phil.

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Impro group Swaajp are doing their thing over at BATS Little Theatre on Paardenmarkt at 8pm. This week the guest is “Queen of Improvisation” Australian, Patti Stiles.

Sunday

Another secondhand market at Plein Publiek, starting at 1pm, and a fashion & vinyl market (Black Market) at Bar Gloed from midday.

It’s already the third Sunday of the month so there will as usual be a secondhand book market on de Coninckplein, from 10am, right in front of Permeke Library, where you can also take the kids for a read-aloud (in Dutch) at 11 with the new year themes of wishes. This is free, suitable for kids aged 4-8, and you do not need to register beforehand. I took my kids on Wednesday and they both enjoyed the stories very much and wanted to stay in the library.

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Off to the library

This Anton Corbijn photography exhibition is previewing at the Zeno x gallery in Borgerhout, from 3-6pm. If -like me -you enjoyed the film ‘Control’ you might be keen to see some of his pictures, many of which feature rock stars he has photographed over the years.

Miscellaneous

There is very stormy weather predicted for Friday, with likely flooding by the river.

Temperatures are predicted to be around 4-5 degrees, with the possibility of rain each day, but particularly on Saturday.

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A heads-up for runners: if you want to take part in the Plan Belgium Run on Sunday, March 12, 2017 (Park Spoor Noord) sign up soon (Antwerp Urban Trail on the drop-down menu), as places are running out (no pun intended).

If you are planning a New Year, post-festive clear-out of your home you might want to revisit this post for ideas about where to take still useable toys, books, household goods and wearable clothes, instead of throwing them out.You could also contact the EVA centre in Ekeren who often take items to assist the refugees that they welcome and care for.

Last weekend I spent some of Saturday afternoon at Mercado on Groenplaats and was pleasantly surprised. Previously when I had been in it had been so busy that it wasn’t pleasant, but by 2.30 last Saturday it was busy enough to be fun, but we were able to get a place (if you are with small kids, or prams and buggies, you might want to choose your time carefully). The interior of what was the old Post Office has been nicely done and the prices were not as high as I thought they would be. In particular, if you are on a budget, head for the Lebanese stand (Yalla Yalla). These Lebanese sandwiches were tasty (as was the falafel), and cost 5-6 euros.

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Thanks to MAF and SWAAJP for the use of their images.