I’ve taken several trips to Paris and had several fond memories. One of my most memorable experiences is the first time I went to the hammam at the Grande Mosquée de Paris.
This actually was my first time ever in a hammam, which is a Turkish bath or steam house. At the time I was living in Italy and a friend asked me to meet her in Paris. Who says no to a quick trip to Paris when you’re that close?
As this was my first trip to Paris as an adult and she had been several times, I let her coordinate our activities. When she suggested going to a day spa in Paris, I was ready for a world-class experience.
Walking up to the mosque, I realized spending a day at a hammam was not going to be my typical day spa experience. A friendly warning from my friend would’ve been nice as I had no clue what I was about to experience. I simply knew it was too late to change my mind.
The real warning I wished my friend gave me was that this place was a clothing optional facility. I had been in locker rooms with naked women before, however, this was a lot different than being in a locker room. The hammam was like a congressional gathering of women liberated from the restraints of clothes in the name of luxury. I hear nowadays full nudity is no longer an option at the Mosquée de Paris, but when I went the first time it was the only way to go.
I stood in the locker with my bathing suit in my hand and knew I had a big decision to make. Standout like the awkward, shy American girl or try to blend in with the chic Parisian women. I opted to go nude and made every effort to hide the fact that the awkward girl inside of me was freaking the hell out.
Walking into the main area I quickly forgot any shyness I felt a few minutes ago. The pure artistry of the architecture inside of this hammam was so beautiful. I found myself mesmerized by the tiles and archways and completely forgot about the naked women around me and continued to explore.
The first steam room we entered was blazing hot. I tried to play it cool like I go to crazy hot steam rooms all the time in America, but trying to play it cool wore off in about two minutes. Recognizing defeat, I walked out thinking, “1 point for the Parisians, 0 for the American.”
I next explored the other steam rooms, which were much easier to manage. After jumping in and out of the various steam rooms like a pro, I was then instructed to rub the savon noir, black soap, all over my body. I did as instructed but felt silly. It looked as if I had applied war paint all over my body and was simply waiting for the battle call. Everyone else looked just as silly, so I wore my black soap with pride until it was time to wash it off for the next phase.
Gommage & Massage
If I wasn’t prepared for the being in a hammam, I really was not ready to experience a gommage. A gommage is a product that exfoliates the face or body, leaving skin feeling silky soft. You apply a paste to the skin, allowing it to dry slightly while gentle enzymes digest dead skin cells on the surface before rubbing it off and removing the dead skin cells with it.
Sounds like a relaxing experience? Think again, it instead felt like being scrubbed down like some prisoner in jail. The plus side of getting a gommage is that my skin did look and feel amazing.
Immediately afterward I was instructed to sit down on one of the padded mats in this beautiful hall. There were several women, including my friend, already enjoying either tea or a massage in this area of the hammam. One of the staff members came up to me and began to pour oil all over my body. She then gave me one of the most relaxing massages and my first massage in a public setting.
I walked out of the hammam at the Mosquée de Paris a changed woman. That day I conquered to some degree feeling uncomfortable freely walking naked around others, extraordinarily hot steam rooms, and trying something new.
This really was one of the first times I had pushed myself outside of my comfort zone only to discover that I love going to bath houses. Paris will always have a special place in my heart for opening my eyes to the amazing world of hammams and making my skin glow like never before!