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You are seated at the southern end of the city district Poelenburg, named after the saw mill that once stood here but was moved to the Zaanse Schans in 1963.
De Zaan workshops and factories survived the Second World War relatively unscathed and soon resumed business as usual. Just like in earlier centuries, this drew new labour forces to the region. From the 1960s onward, young men from Turkey and Morocco were actively recruited. Although they never intended to stay, new laws after 1973 made it possible to invite their families to join them in their new home town.
The pensions and hostels they used to live in were now no longer appropriate. The newcomers were housed in the big housing developments on the edge of Zaandam. The district of Poelenburg “changed colour” almost overnight, causing the Zaandammers to rename it “Turksburg”. In 1994 the then biggest mosque in Western-Europe opened its doors.
Over the last couple of years, Poelenburg suffered from overcrowding and a high turnover among the population, which has led to its deterioration. The city of Zaanstad has come up with an extensive scheme, the “Masterplan Poelenburg”, which is supposed to improve the situation over the next 20 years.
Poelenburg has its problems, but it also has its own atmosphere, including a raw sense of humour. Ismael Ilgun, who lived in an adjacent part of the city, became a national figure in 2016 because of his “hood vlogs”, short videos about the hard life in the neighbourhood. ‘No money, but hungry’ became a much-used slogan. Because of exaggerated media attention, the story grew to be a bit bigger than it really was, but it helped Ilgun on his way to become a regular reporter.