Like Assisi we came to Paris as Pilgrims not a tourists. You may want to skip reading this if you are looking for the usual tourist things to do in Paris. We came to visit one place and one room.
We entered the quiet Paris neighborhood of Surenes with the sole purpose of visiting a room in the house where our Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan lived in their early 1920’s. The house is named Fazal Manzil which means “blessed house.” We were there to receive the blessing of this house and, hopefully, reflect that out to the world in some small measure.
With the help of Zamir, who lives on the property of Fazal Manzil, we found accommodation suitable to pilgrims – a sort of micro hotel nearby. Paris can be very expensive but we were told about a budget hotel near Surenes. The key for us is that it would be within walking distance of Fazal Manzil.
Premier Classe Quest Pont de Surenses had truly the smallest room I had ever seen . There was just enough space to walk around the double sized bed in the center. However it was where we wanted to be at a pilgrims price.
Simply to walk the streets that our teacher Murshid must have walked in the late 20’s was an absorbing experience. Every time I passed an old building in his neighborhood I thought to myself “Murshid must have passed this on one of his walks.”
Of course things in the neighborhood changed dramatically after the Second World War. A large piece of land that was the property of the estate was taken by the government for housing as there was a desperate need for such after the war. There is now a large apartment complex across the street from Fazal Manzil.
When we arrived we were warmly greeted by Zamir, who resides on the grounds. We were allowed an hour in the Oriental Room where Murshid met with his Mureeds. We meditated and took a few photos. I feel that to be in the room was a very special, inner experience, that I cannot share online. I will share one photo of the room – an altar set up to honor Noor, daughter of Inayat Khan.
In the garden, essentially the front yard of Fazal Manzil, there is a memorial to Noor the daughter of Inayat Khan and sister to our Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Noor died in a concentration camp after being arrested and tortured by the Gestapo for her work as radio operator and British agent while on a mission in France – the country of her childhood. For her courage and sacrifice in giving the allied forces essential information prior to the liberation of France, the French people have honored her with allowing the building of a beautiful memorial shown in photos below. It is both a memorial and a temple dedicated to all religions and is called the Universel.
Above, the steps into the Universel and the altar. On left the exterior of the building in the garden of Fazal Manzil.
The Universel seems to float as part of the earth and as part of the sky.
We sat for a good while there and bathed in the light. Though the busy streets of Paris are close and the sounds of the city can be heard from outside the gates of Fazal Manzil, there is a quiet stillness within the walls of the grounds.