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Grande Mosquée de Paris

In many parts of the world, mosques are out-of-bound for non-followers. I’ve even known of mosques which clearly sign-posted that non-Muslims are strictly prohibited to enter. Add to the fact that I’m female, getting access to the compound within these mosques would be even trickier, especially in accordance to traditionalists, Muslim women should preferably pray at home, or otherwise be segregated to a separate room or at the back of the prayer hall or behind certain barriers, not side by side with the men.

Of course, that is not always the case. In certain cities or countries, mosques can be visited by non-Muslims outside of prayer sessions, provided certain guidelines such as appropriate attire and respectful observations are adhered to. This is the face of Islam that is encompassing, encouraging deeper understanding than beyond the portrayals in the media which are often misunderstood and maligned, and fostering links with the community at large regardless of the religion its individual practices.

The Great Mosque of Paris (La Grande Mosquée de Paris) is one which doors are open to all. Built in the 1920s in commemoration of the valiant Muslim tirailleurs who fought on France’s behalf, it has even once transformed into a hidden sactuary for Jews who were being persecuted during the Holocaust. Today, it aims to foster community relationships with believers and non-believers alike, and our guide couldn’t emphasise enough that their duty is to forge understanding that Islam is peaceful by nature and unity belies its core teaching.

Built in Hispanic-Moorish (Mudéjar) style of architecture, what caught my eyes most on the somber February afternoon when we visited the mosque was the stunningly beautiful and colourful zellige adorning its walls. The intricately-patterned tiles had been meticulously built to capture everyone’s attention. Its inner court garden was quiet and peaceful, and I can imagine, once recovers from the wintry chill, the burst of life among the plants and greeneries would add additional layer of allure to keep its visitors enthralled.

Our guide also brought our attention to the minimal use of Islamic text as part of the decorative characteristic of the mosque. Instead, nature-based motifs (stars, leaves etc) and geometrical patterns have been made the more prominent features. The colour scheme is also composed of shades commonly found in our day-to-day life. Gree, blue and earth in harmonious complements.

As one door to the prayer hall was left opened, we even got a peek at the pillar-supported vast room, with carpet in green with motif that also doubles as marker of a worshipper’s space on the floor, pale white/beige walls, iron-cast chandeliers (now holding electric bulbs) and wooden panels along the lower-half of the walls.

It certainly was fascinating to uncover another facet of the mosque which I had no prior knowledge on. Growing up in an officially Islamic country, I understand the basic premise of the religion but without access to mosque compound, I remained ignorant to certain set up within a mosque. I wouldn’t pretend that I have now seen it all though. This is merely the start of another route of learning and discovery.

The Grand Mosque of Paris is open daily, except Friday and religious days, from 9am to noon and 2pm to 6pm, to non-Muslim visitors. There is a small entry fee charged (€3 / €2 concession) and short, relatively informal guided tours are given free in French around the inner court, garden and library, while the prayer hall, certain rooms and minaret remains out of bound for those not of faith. Worshippers, however, may enter freely and without restriction to prayer areas.

There are also tearoom/restaurant and hammam attached to the mosque complex but at a separate (and easier to spot) entrance that sits on the busy rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire. The tearoom is just the place for a syrupy cup of mint tea and some sweet treats, and it links to dining area where couscous and tajine can be had. The hammam is gender-segregated, opens daily with specific days dedicated either to men (Tuesday and Sunday) or to women (Monday, Wednesday-Saturday).

Category: Paris

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6 scribbles & notes

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for a very interesting post! I never even thought of visiting a mosque but the Grand Mosquee looks fascinating. I love the geometric patterns, great inspiration for craft work.

    • Lil says:

      thanks sarah, and it is a very interesting place to visit. i would love to go back some time, when it’s really sunny, because i’m sure the colours would be further intensified! (come visit us – we have a spare room ;))

  2. Gioia says:

    Lovely photos! Enjoy your stay in Paris.

  3. triniti says:

    i loved it and it really helped for my project enjoy your new lifestyle in paris!!!!!!!!!!

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