Paris Great Mosque – La Grande Mosquée de Paris
posted by Fisso
Fais ce qu'il te plaît”
“In May, do as you please” ...
so goes the saying!
And in May, I want to visit the Grande Mosquée de Paris, the Great Paris Mosque!
The Grande Mosquée was opened in 1926, close to the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden) in the 5th arrondissement. It is built in Mudéjar (Hispanic-Moorish) style with elements from Moroccan and Tunisian mosques. Craftsmen from North Africa were in charge of designing the colourful enamel tiles and the intricate details on the timber doors.
The entrance to the Grande Mosquée's gardens and patios is on rue Desplas in front of the little garden on rue du Puits de l'Hermite.
I enter the mosque and it is like stepping into an Andalusian garden, with small trees, flowering shrubs and tiled fountains! A few old ladies and gents sit along the shady and breezy arcade around the courtyard. The water features could use a bit of repairing, for a bit more bubble and flow, but nevertheless, it is very pleasant to sit in the sun and enjoy this little garden, with view on the minaret.
Up a few steps and through a heavily carved door, and here I am in the patio. The Grande Mosquée de Paris patio is such a contrast from the courtyard garden! No more colourful flowers and shrubs! It is beautiful with its simple lines and central marble pool. I stroll along the arcades, taking a closer look at the motifs on the tiles, mosaics, doors and pillars. I sneak a peek into the small side garden, and make my way towards the prayer hall, at the other end.
The Grande Mosquée's prayer room is accessible only to Muslims, and quite busy today, so I stay close to the rows of shoes and try to catch a glimpse of the carpeted hall, the heavily carved arcades and hanging cupola!
After all this visiting, it must be tea-time by now!
The Grande Mosquée de Paris also has a tea house and restaurant, accessible from rue Geoffroy Saint Hilaire and rue Daubenton. Next to the restaurant is the hammam (steam bath).
The tea house is set in two lovely courtyards, with many potted plants and fountains. My favourite spot is in a corner of the inner courtyard, close to the souk-like shop. Waiters with trays of thé à la menthe, piping hot green tea with fresh mint served in small decorated glasses, weave in and out between the tightly packed tables and chairs. If the intoxicatingly sweet tea is not enough to satisfy your sugar cravings, make sure you order some pastries such as corne de gazelle (literally, “gazelle's horn”) or baklawa!
The restaurant is located indoors (I understand they can also serve in the courtyard). It serves North African dishes such as couscous (meat and vegetables served with semolina) and tajine (vegetables or meat dishes braised in a pyramidal earthen dish). I have not tried the food here myself, but I know most people come here more for the ambiance. And it is a pretty place, with elaborate decorations and three beautiful timber porticoes.
The mosque is open every day for visiting. The gardens, patios and prayer room are free for Muslims, and a few euros for non-Muslims (no visits on Fridays for non-Muslims).
The tea rooms, restaurant, shop and hammam are open to everyone every day, and there is no entrance charge. Just pay if you drink, eat, buy or exfoliate!!
The restaurant and especially the tea house get busy (very busy) on weekends, so if queues and crowds are not your thing, enjoy a weekday afternoon or morning tea with a fewer people (you'll probably never get the whole place to yourself though...)
For more visiting ideas around the Paris Mosque, check out our Latin Quarter Walk or blog posts on the Jardin de Plantes (Botanical Garden).