The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Mohamed Oallal

Mohamed Oallal

Pastry baker at Patisserie Anouar (1979)

Can you describe what you do?

I own a fresh bakery in the Hoogstraat. We take pride in ourselves for our wide assortment of breads and pastry, a mix of Belgian, Moroccan and even Spanish products. We also have a tearoom where we serve club sandwiches, pancakes and milkshakes. Everything we sell is freshly prepared and baked on the spot.

I try to add a personal touch to each product and offer only the best quality. There are a couple of other bakeries in the same street, so we have some competition. But our shop is always full of people, and some customers travel from outside the city for our bread.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Over the years, Mechelen has become more and more attractive for tourists and out-of-towners. This is reflected upon in the variety of customers I see coming to my shop every day. We see locals as well as people from all over Belgium, and more and more foreigners. Even comparing it to when we started out in 2015, the steady increase of tourism is very apparent.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

In Mechelen I was able to realise my lifelong dream of having my own bakery. My shop is the result of many years of hard labour. I spent a lot of time working for other bakers and cooks, learning the craft. After-hours, I went to night school so I could eventually start my own business. I took over a shop at another location for a while, and three years ago I opened my own place. I am very proud to have achieved this. The many satisfied customers we serve every day are my greatest reward.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

This is a very personal thing, from my experience as a baker: just one garbage collection in a week is not enough. Especially  during summertime, this becomes a delicate matter with all the organic waste that we have to preserve for a week. There used to be two collections a week, and I’d like to see this reinstated.

If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what/where would it be?

I would show them around the centre, all the beautiful historical building are sure to make a lasting impression on anyone.