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.

Nidal Bchiri

Nidal Bchiri

 Belgian heavyweight champion in kickboxing, (1990)

Can you describe what you do?

I work in an interior design workshop, but besides that all my time and energy is invested in my kickboxing career. I have only recently attained professional status, participating in international A-level tournaments. I’m very proud of this accomplishment, as I’ve seen many young people in our club give up on their passion. I actually stopped fighting for a number of years after experiencing a TKO (technical knockout), but I always had this nagging feeling of unfinished business. Three years ago, I started kickboxing again and this time I took it very seriously.

I live in Mechelen Zuid, a very multicultural neighbourhood where everybody is friendly and polite with each other. I just starting doing street work with the kids around here, to be a good inspiration and motivator. I think my life story is a good example for them.

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?

I’ve noticed a tremendous progress, particularly when it comes to different cultures living together and public participation in local politics. Mechelen is also a really safe place, and there is a lot of initiative to help out the less fortunate in society. I lived in Amsterdam until I was 15 years old, and I see a tremendous difference in the approach to these problems. The city council really listens to what every inhabitant of Mechelen has to say, instead of singling out the lucky few.

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Our sense of collaboration. People join forces and help each other out, which is really a beautiful thing to see.

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

The city has always treated me well. Even when I was a youngster, I could enjoy local youth work and good education here. Recently, the city also started supporting our club Royal Gym on an infrastructural level.

What would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

Maybe one little issue of note: we could use some more litter bins in the streets. But that’s really the only thing I can think of.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

You definitely have to see the unique view on top of the St. Rumbold’s Tower. Have a stroll through the Herb Garden and enjoy a drink at the Veemarkt. And if you’re a pizza lover like me, Pizza Roma and Kingslize are the best in town!