Today my World Lit. class took its field trip to the Grande Mosquée and the Arènes de Lutèce. The mosque is beautiful with “Hispano-Mauresque” architecture, mosaic tiles, and calligraphy everwhere. We had this very kind tour guide named Yamina who explained what the different rooms in the mosque were used for and at the same time explained a lot of the basics of Islamic beliefs and rituals. For instance, I did not know (or maybe had forgotten) that the 5-pointed star represents the 5 pillars of Islam. I did know that when Muslims say the name of the prophet Muhammad they follow it by saying a little blessing for him, but I did not know how to say it in French. Now I do, for which please see the title of this post. The tour was entirely in French so I was on translator duty. I think I mostly did well! One thing I am learning is that the person being translated also needs to know how to work with a translator. Yamina was very easy to understand but sometimes she’d tell us a LOT of information and I’d have to try to keep it all in my brain and roll it back out in English. In any case, we learned a lot at the mosque and I was happy to have this new experience. We were allowed to take pictures, which I was not sure about going in, so that was exciting as well.
From the mosque we went to the Arènes de Lutèce, which is right around the corner. It’s the other ancient Roman ruins site in Paris in addition to the Thermes de Cluny (now part of the Musée du Moyen-Age). It is an amphitheatre that was built around the first century C.E. and was, as such things frequently are, almost demolished to make way for new construction. To be honest, it isn’t much to look at but for an American it’s exciting just to visit something that survives from so long ago. I wanted the class to be able to say they had been there!
Afterward we returned to the mosque, which has a café adjoining it, and we made a record amount of couscous, lamb, sausage, chicken, and vegetables disappear in a very short while. Memo to my students: now, if someone asks you if you like North African food, you can say yes! And hot mint tea with sugar–that went down very nicely on what felt to Southerners like a slightly chilly day.
This afternoon after we got back I made a run to Gibert Jeune (huge bookstore with a great stationery section as well), grabbed 2 more Pierre Lemaitre books and a used copy of Notre-Dame de Paris (i.e. The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and ran across a question-and-answer book of Paris trivia called Connaissez-Vous Paris? (Do You Know Paris?) so I grabbed that as well. Someone remind me not to buy any more books here. This makes 6!