Discover the Grand Mosque of Paris

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Discover the Grand Mosque of Paris
The little square in which the Paris Mosque stands is romantically named La Place du Puits de l’Ermite, or “The Square of the Hermit’s Well,” but you would never guess from standing outside the relatively plain white walls of the building what a garden of delights lies behind the entrance. Maybe word is spreading though, for the mosque, used daily as a place of Muslim worship and teaching, also attracts some 60,000 visitors a year who are keen to see inside and find out more. Mosque door © Marian Jones At the entrance is a heavy cedarwood door, decorated with verses from the Koran in Arabic script and the floral designs so typical of Islamic artwork. As you step inside, a vista opens up which speaks of faraway places, Moorish Spain and North Africa. The central courtyard is a little haven: white walls and archways on all four sides, enhanced by panels of decorative mosaics in calming greens and blues, their geometric patterns echoed in the decorations at the base of the many pillars and on the minaret, 33 meters tall, which can be glimpsed from various vantage points. Plants create tranquillity: five palm trees symbolize the five pillars of Islam and carefully shaped fir trees provide structure. The pink marble of the pillars is echoed in the central marble basin with its fountain of water, an integral part of Islamic garden design, but functional too. Traditionally, worshippers would cleanse themselves in the courtyard before going inside to worship. The inside of the mosque is a suite of rooms around the courtyard and the public can visit on any day but Friday or Muslim Festival Days. There is a small entrance charge – currently €3 – and then, perhaps unexpectedly, the first thing you will see is an electronic noticeboard, giving the date and time in both Arabic and Latin script and the five exact times for mandatory prayers that day, along with their names: Fajr is the dawn prayer, Dhuhr the one around midday, followed by Asr, Maghrib and Isha. Along the bottom is the mosque’s website link, used by worshippers to access the times for each day’s prayer remotely. The board sets the tone for a visit – this building is actively used on a daily basis for worship. Visitors can walk around the whole complex, although they are asked not to enter the prayer hall. The library is particularly attractive, an ornate room lined with bookcases fashioned from rare woods where volumes of the Encyclopedia of Islam are kept, along with many copies of the Koran, some of them antique, many of them donated by worshippers. The overall effect is understated, much simpler and less ornamented than most churches for example, but there are precious things to be found, many of them donated at the time the mosque was built, sent by fellow Muslims from around the world. A carpet with Persian motifs running through it, lace wall-hangings with repeating geometric designs and floral patterns displayed against a dark red background, heavy, heavy doors carved from the finest cedarwood.
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Lead photo credit : Paris Mosque at night © Murat Çeven, Wikimedia Commons

More in Grand Mosque, Islam, La Place du Puits de l’Ermite, Place of Worship, The Grand Mosque of Paris

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.

Comments

  • Martha Sessums
    2022-09-08 06:12:39
    Martha Sessums
    Great story and history of the mosque, Marian. My husband and I love visiting the mosque on Christmas Day as our appreciation of all cultures. We order hot, sweet tea (delivered by servers with asbestos hands as the untouchably hot tea glasses don't seem to bother them) and pet the cat that is always in the tearoom.

    REPLY

    • Marian Jones
      2022-09-12 11:42:23
      Marian Jones
      Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece, especially as you know the mosque well. I have not been there in winter, but I will make a point of popping in next time I am passing in cold weather. I bet it will have a very different atmosphere.

      REPLY

  • Bernard & Ruth Garnett
    2022-09-04 09:35:21
    Bernard & Ruth Garnett
    "Bonjour Paris" (online)? A pleasure to look forward to, places new and revisited, in between journeys to France. Merci beaucoup !

    REPLY

    • Marian Jones
      2022-09-05 09:28:56
      Marian Jones
      Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece. Bonne visite to Paris, hopefully before too long!

      REPLY