There is a mosque in Paris, in the 5th arrondissement, that has a cafe and a bath. A traditional Turkish bath in the heart of Paris. Why not? So today, Monday being one of the days that it’s open for women only, I headed out with my map, my swimsuit, and a bit of trepidation.
I found it with little difficulty and walked into the cafe. There was a sign for the hammam, bath, off to the side of the cafe. Hiding behind the counter full of pastries, the door didn’t seem to be in use. I asked the man at the counter, and he gestured behind him. So yes, that was where to go. I squeezed past a fellow tourist trying to order and into the bath.
I ordered the basic package that include the sauna, the exfoliation, the massage and a tea. I was handed little coupons for each treatment as well as a package of brown olive oil soap. The woman at the counter said, “Go through, change your clothes in the room to the right, go and take a shower, rub in the soap everywhere, go sit for maybe 20 minutes, then shower again and then….”
There was more after that, but I didn’t remember it. I stuck with the first part of the instructions, change clothes. OK, done. Take a shower. This involved walking through a room where three women were getting massages, through a little anteroom and then there were showers off to the side of the room where women were being violently brushed down by a small Turkish woman in a sweat-soaked red tunic.
A quick shower and then I rubbed on the brown soap and headed into the next room to realize that it was in there that you were supposed to rub on the soap. Oh well. From there, into the sauna room where the heat and steam took my breath away. I lay there for a bit, keeping an eye on the two women who had come in at about the same time that I did, figuring I would follow what they did next.
After sweating it out for awhile, I headed to be exfoliated. After each woman, the “exfoliator” would pick up a hose, spray down the table for a few seconds and then gesture for the next person. Using a mitt and another packet of the brown olive oil soap, she literally scraped off my first layer of skin. When I got up, there were little bits of my sloughed off skin hanging in spots on my arms and torso.
Another shower and then to the massage room for a 10 minute massage with an oil that smelled of menthol, eucalyptus and mint. The massage started with a vigorous rubdown of my face, which was a bit startling.
Here’s an image of the massage room. There were lotus blossoms floating in the top basin of the fountain, and that’s where the massuers washed their hands.
After all of that, I wandered back out into the cafe and wondered if the people sitting there having tea and cakes knew what was happening beyond the little door behind the counter. It was over 6 hours ago, and I still can feel the oil on my arms and legs. An experience I would definitely recommend!