Paris off the beaten path: Marrakech à Monge
A trip to Paris can reveal many neighbourhoods and ethnicities, as well as allow you to experience a new culture within the borders of the city.
A short walk from the picturesque Jardin des Plantes, one can even escape to exotic Morocco.
Monge meets Marrakech
The Paris Mosque, located in the beautiful 5th arrondissement near the Place Monge market, creates an architectural juxtaposition with the Haussmannian buildings of the French capital.
In addition to being an active mosque, it offers the community a taste of Moroccan cuisine and culture, with a variety of activities that range from authentic Moroccan mint tea to a traditional and relaxing spa experience. But désolé, gentlemen: this one is just for the ladies!
Qu’est-ce que c’est ?
The hammam, a steam room similar to a Turkish bath, can be broken down into three phases: the heat, the scrub, and the sweet finish.
The basic entry fee is 18€, which grants you access to the steam rooms for as long as you can handle. Otherwise, the best way to experience the sauna is to purchase a forfait, especially if it’s your first time. The most economical forfait at 43€ includes entry, savon noir (black soap), a glove, a ten-minute massage, gommage (scrub), and tea.
Hot gets hotter
Once you enter, you exchange your shoes for flip-flops and receive a little kit including a bucket, a washcloth, and savon noir. Before you go into the first steam room, head to the changing rooms for a shower and apply the savon noir so it can start soaking into your skin.
The first room is steaming hot; you can feel your body melting and bending into the heat. After a while, it no longer seems stifling – especially once you step into the second room, which is positively scorching. The heat increases exponentially, but luckily there is a cold-water pool to provide some relief. Once you’re fully relaxed, it’s time for the gommage.
Exfoliation: no pain, no gain
This second phase is not for the fragile; it isn’t your daily shower exfoliation. Lie down on the marble table and brace yourself. These grandmotherly Arabic women look harmless in their white uniforms – but they’ve got some serious arm strength.
Be prepared to have the first layer of skin scrubbed off. They use an exfoliation glove to rid your body of dead skin cells and don’t stop until their mission is complete. Afterward, they hose off the table and it’s onto the next woman in line, while you head off to the final part of the visit.
Massage and mint tea
The ten-minute massage that comes with the forfait is a relaxing way to finish off the experience after a steam and scrub. I’d recommend splurging on a longer massage, but if you’re on a tighter schedule, ten minutes will do. Just make sure to put your name on the list!
Mint tea is one of the best gifts that Morocco has given the world, along with couscous, Gad Elmaleh, and Moroccan Oil (which transforms hair from straw to awe). The perfect compliment to the fragrant tea is one of their honey-laden desserts, particularly the layered cakes. There is no sweeter way to end the hammam experience than with a cup of thé à la menthe.
A few tips…
On a budget? Bring your own scrubs, exfoliators, and towels. They also offer everything above à la carte, as well as waxing.
This is now a women-only hammam, and is unfortunately not a Scandinavian spa, so you must bring a bathing suit, or at least bathing suit bottoms.
Unique cultural experience off the beat track
The hammam is one of Paris’s best kept secrets. It is ideal for those who want to have a unique experience in the City of Light, to get a more local perspective and experience another of Paris’s cultures. If you want to escape for North Africa for the afternoon, and love feeling pampered, the hammam is for you.Hammam de la Mosquée
39 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005
Métro: Censier-Dubenton or Saint Marcel.
Tel: 01 43 31 18 14
Have you been experienced a Hammam in Paris or anywhere else before? Share your experiences with us below in the comment box.Image credits
1. Mosquée de Paris By Stephane Martin via Flickr
2. Mosque Coutrayd by Farruck via Flickr
3. Mint tea by Trevor Hartsell via Flickr