17 Nov 2015


When the Russian airplane crashed, everybody told me not to go to Egypt. And now a few days later I can't even go to Paris. We are asked to cancel all trips to Paris until further instructions.

Of course I have followed as you have probably too, the terrorist attacks in Paris. But today I got the impression that we in Brussels are getting more and more involved and especially one area,  Molenbeek-Saint-Jean which is one of the nineteen municipalities located in the Brussels. It is one of the most densely populated municipalities in Belgium, with over 16,000 inhabitants per km2.

At the end of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution and the building of the Brussels-Charleroi Canal brought prosperity to Molenbeek, through commerce and manufacturing. Attracted by the industrial opportunities, many workers moved in, first from other Belgian provinces and France, then from South European, and more recently from East European and African countries. The growth of the community continued unabated throughout the 19th century, leading to cramped living conditions, especially near the canal.

The town became known as “Little Manchester” and its inhabitants lived through an extended period of misery. The industrial decline, which had already started before World War I, accelerated after the Great Depression. In some areas of the town, the ensuing poverty left its mark on the urban landscape and scarred the social life of the community, leading to rising crime rates and pervading cultural intolerance. Various local revitalization programs are currently under way, aiming at relieving the most impoverished districts of the municipality.

Over the past couple of decades, a substantial Muslim community of mainly Moroccan and Turkish ancestry has established itself in Molenbeek, very visible (people, shops, caf├ęs) in the oldest neighbourhoods of the commune, near the canal.  There are several mosques in the commune, including a Pakistani one, and a Shi'a Turkish mosque.

Switching on the Television at noon, I was really glad to live outside Brussels what I saw was terrifying. It lasted nearly the whole morning. Police had invaded Molenbeek to look for the still missing Paris terrorists as there are several sources indicating that they came from Molenbeek.

Molenbeek in normal times

with its very nice weekly market

Molenbeek has some very nice areas and beautiful old houses. Nobody could suspect that there was a breeding nest of terrorists in this municipality.

And that's what I saw, and it happened only a few kms far from my home 

Very unusual scenes in Brussels

Journalists from all over the world were there and also interviewed the population. They are all shocked. They just can't believe that these inconspicuous men had committed such terrible crimes.

Quite impressive for the locals

Teachers tried to explain to the kids what happened, which was not an easy task.

It must be terrible for Molenbeek's honest population what's happening in their municipality !

more participants here


Indrani said...

Thanks for sharing all these. We are really terrified!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gattina - I imagine Molenbeek would be a lovely artisinal area ... except for what has so obviously now been uncovered. It is difficult to understand how people can do such atrocities. Appalling.

I hope it doesn't impact on you and your area - with thoughts - Hilary

Andrew said...

Yes, you are on the world stage but perhaps not how you would like to be. A Moroccon born Belgium reporter on our tv was very critical of the government for not stomping down earlier on radical Moslems in the Molenbeek area. On a canal? Some grand houses? Buy property there now while it is cheap.

Maribeth said...

Are they limiting excursions to Egypt? I have thought of you so much.

Anonymous said...

This part of the world was on the front page of our news too..

Gracie said...

It's always interesting to get to know why a particular place becomes home for some kind of people, so thanks for sharing such informations to better understand what's going on.

Photo Cache said...

sad times. very tough times too.

Worth a Thousand Words

Klara said...

yeap, that's Molenbeek.

Loree said...

This is all so very sad. I don't seem to be able to say anything except how sad and terrifying all this is.

carol l mckenna said...

Great post and photos as it is all so very sad for all of us and you are closer to it ~
Thanks for sharing the fascinating history ~

Happy Week to you,
artmusedog and carol

Louisette said...

We can never forgot this tragic moments in Paris.

diane b said...

I thought of you when we saw this on TV and I was glad it wasn't Waterloo. It is a terrible time in our world when we are not free to travel anywhere we want.

Linens and Royals said...

Hard to believe how young some of the terrorists are. From here Molenbeek looks a very nice place but now an awful place to live.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear you are so close to the action. Thanks for sharing the background we would not hear anywhere else. You and Mr. G stay safe!

Betty said...

I've been listening to the news on CNN and thinking about you. Stay safe. Betty

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We spoke of you as we watched the news (blogging has a way of making things more 'local' and I guess that is good). Bill asked how far away you were from there -- I had no idea (my geography skills are terrible anyway)... we were going to look it up after the news, but of course we forgot).

This is really a good post about what that neighborhood is like; so much more informative than what we ssee on national news. And frightening to be so close (though really we are all too close). You ended with the perfect sentence -- we must all keep that in mind.