WHAT WILL BECOME OF IT? “At Salah’s”. A café that caused quite a “stir” two years ago. Located slap bang in the middle of a zone earmarked for demolition, its owner stubbornly refuses to part. Today, Salah Oujdane still hasn’t thrown in the dishcloth. An act of resistance that has attracted empathy and which is portrayed as a model as featured in a recent documentary which won a prize in Algeria.
Article written by Rachid Karbiche.
On this sunny day, the café, the only building standing on waste ground near the Roubaix canal, rue de l’Union, is anything but packed. Inside, the atmosphere is special. Nothing like a chic café. Natural light, often in short supply, has made the place welcoming and warm. The café, decked with wooden tables, is spacious. The café owner, Salah Oujdane, 74 years old, is standing near the bar. He is quick to state: “I will not leave here“.
BUZZ IN 2011…
You remember: In 2011, Salah caused a storm in the press. The reason: He wanted to keep his café located in an area earmarked for demolition. For some fifteen years, the council’s urban planning service has wished the demise of this makeshift community centre, opened by Salah in 1965. Objective: to totally renovate the zone. The media rushes to tell the story of this modern day resistance fighter. Of course, the man has kept the newspaper cuttings in which he appears: La Voix du Nord, Nord Éclair; so many memories that underline the owner’s determination. “It’s always reassuring to feel supported“, he says to us pointing his finger at an article in the local paper. The politicians will follow his case as well. In February 2012, before the beginning of her meeting at Roubaix, Eva Joly, then candidate for Europe Ecology/The Greens, even made a little detour to his establishment to express her support for him.
… STILL STANDING IN 2013
In 2013, Salah, smiling in his striped shirt, is still around. And just as determined to keep his café, “until his dying day“, as the fellow himself insists. The promoters have received the message loud and clear: Today, according to this local hero in his seventies, they don’t come to bother him anymore and are concentrating their efforts on the constructions that are mushrooming up all around. But even if Salah is isolated on his tiny plot of land, he’s not alone. He still has his faithful customers, who don’t hesitate to pay him a visit even if access to the café is difficult. Messages of support continue to arrive regularly. The locals, for example, come and encourage him, considering his stand as a symbol of resistance. Another encouraging sign not to be snuffed at: this urban resistance fighter was the subject of a documentary, “At Salah’s”. The documentary was awarded 1st prize, the “Olivier d’Or”, at the 13th Amazigh Festival of Tizi Ouzou. We don’t know if the urban planning service has viewed it…
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