Escapism. It really is a wonderful thing to clear the mind. To sit quietly by yourself, in a place outside your comfort zone (by that I mean, not your local coffee shop.. y’know, the one with the free-wifi, where you sit in that same spot by the window…)
Time turns to a standstill. You are acutely aware of your surroundings. Psychologists would call it becoming mindful. More present. Going to the Mosque is not something you often find me doing, nor recommending that others necessarily make a point of doing, but from time to time, it’s just the ticket.
The Mosque – roughly speaking – is comprised of three parts: the prayer rooms, the extensive scholarly library and then the restaurant, tea room and hammam, which are open to the public. I haven’t been to the hammam yet (still one of these things that I haven’t checked off my to-do list) but my friend and fellow British expat Nikki Bayley has:
One of my favourite spas in the world is La Mosquée in Paris, it’s… a series of beautiful marble-tiled rooms, each hotter than the next, where you steam and soak, take an icy-cold plunge and then steam and soak some more. It’s a traditional cultural ritual and I found it surprisingly reassuring to be in a room of (mostly half-naked) women of all ages, shapes and sizes. However, it can be a baffling experience; there are no instructions. You get handed slips of paper which you exchange for a ‘gommage‘ (a body scrub) or massage but there’s no real system of how or when that happens. And although, yes, … I was a tad alarmed by the brutal scrubbing I got from an elderly Arab lady (which I genuinely feared would leave me nipple-less), I really enjoyed my afternoon there.
I’m sure it would not come as a surprise to learn that the aspect qui me parle le plus (that’s most appealing to me) is the tea room.
You sit outside in a courtyard, under a gazebo-style awning. There’s a fountain in the middle. Trees. Birds. (N.B. Just for peace of mind, try and bag a table that is not directly underneath one of the branches!) The tables are a beautiful deep sapphire blue that photos simply do not do justice.
A smartly-dressed waiter circulates with a tray of mint teas. Catch his eye. Each thimble will set you back 2 euros, which you pay there and then. Each thimble will also give you easily twice your recommended daily allowance of sugar!
If that’s not enough, there are a selection of North African pastries to choose from – baklava, m’hanncha etc – most of which are priced at 2 euros too.
Even after just half an hour here, you’ll have completely forgotten the hustle and bustle of “regular” Paris just outside.
P.S. The hammam is strictly women-only and is open all day, every day, apart from Tuesday.
Essential Information Address: 39 rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, 75005 Telephone: 01 43 31 368 20 Website: La Mosquée Opening Hours: (tea room) 9am until 11pm every day.