• Algiers

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 6:34 AM
    Last Update : Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 6:34 AM

Sign Language Dominant in Algiers Cafe for Hearing and Speech Impaired

(AWP) - If it weren’t for the music playing in the background in this phenomenal coffee shop on a side street in the Algerian capital, the only sounds heard would be the clinking of spoons and the tapping of domino tiles on the tables, as the Al-Aqaqna Cafe’s customers are mostly deaf and speech-impaired.

Mohmed Boukhafcha, who runs the café, moves among the customers, communicating with them in sign language, taking their orders and joking with them. Some have been frequenting this place for nearly half a century.

One of the long-standing patrons is Al-Hadi Mohamed, who said that, although he liked the place very much, he felt lonely, as the friends he used to meet were diminishing in number.

“I have been a customer of this café since 1976, along with some old friends. They have grown less in number, though. Some of them have passed away, while others stay at home because they suffer from diseases of old age,” he stated in sign language.

In general, deaf and speech-impaired people always come to this place to have a good time and meet their peers,” he said, adding that he visits the cafe daily.

The inauguration of the Al-Aqaqna Café dates back to 1973. Ever since, it has been the meeting place of Algerians of all ages who communicate with sign language.

The Algerian solidarity ministry estimates the number of deaf and speech-impaired citizens in this North African country at more than 200,000.

Boukhafcha said the cafe was like a meeting hall for deaf and speech-impaired people, asserting the place has always been famous.

“This café is well-known worldwide. It has many customers from the Arab Maghreb region, including Tunisia, Morocco and Libya. No one here in Algiers  does not know al-Aqaqna café in Charas street,” he said.

The café has kept its unique features since 1973—no changes in decoration or name have been made.

“This café was founded in 1973 by a group of students from a nearby university. It has remained the favorite meeting place for the deaf and speech-impaired all through the 1980s, up to now. It is frequented by both men and women, who come here to have a cup of coffee and communicate with each other,” Boukhafcha stated.