Dancing at Suresnes

Dancing at Suresnes, at the home of Hazrat Inayat Khan in Paris

Robert and I were very privileged to be invited to Paris in February, to lead a weekend Dance Retreat at Fazal Manzil, the house which Hazrat Inayat Khan chose to be his home in Europe.

Fazl Manzil view from garden

Fazl Manzil – view from garden

The house stands in a suburb of Paris known as Suresnes, on a hillside to the North East of the centre. Apparently he took his time in choosing the area where he wanted to live, because he felt that the atmosphere was very important. Suresnes was known as an area where mystics and hermits had chosen to live centuries ago, and it still retains a peaceful atmosphere, despite nowadays being very much part of the city of Paris. The house stands in a quiet back street, a short walk from busy thoroughfares with shops, cafes, buses and traffic, yet once inside the high wall surrounding the garden, one is in a different world, unaware of noise and bustle.
We arrived at the gates of the garden on foot at dusk, having traveled by bus and the Metro from the Gare du Nord. We were greeted by the ‘caretaker’ who then let us find our own way through the garden, past the luminous shape of the ‘Universel’, looking like an upturned lily, and on to the house itself.

The Universel or Temple of All Faiths in the garden at Fazl Manzil

The Universel or Temple of All Faiths

We were the first to arrive, so the glazed workshop space was in darkness. It was a magical moment as we stepped over the threshold into the room where we could dimly make out Persian rugs on the floor, a collection of large houseplants, and a strangely familiar chair. But there is something about the energy of this place, and it is not possible to capture it in words…like coming home perhaps. Hard to believe that we were in the place where so much of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s teaching was given, and where he raised his family. We snoozed on the sofa before pictures of the Pir O’ Murshid and his daughter Noor until our host arrived after her day’s work, and then a wonderful weekend of dances and sharing food together began.

Jilani

 

Inside the Universel Tower

Inside the Universel Tower

I found it so moving to be in the house where Murshid had lived with his family. I was struck by how the atmosphere reminded me of the Dargah in Delhi, where he is buried, which I have been lucky enough to visit. Maybe this is really an echo of the energy of the man himself.

Robert

Since the weekend I have felt inspired by a connection to the place and to the lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan and to Sufism which had so far eluded me. Something about being at Fazal Manzil has done this – a true pilgrimage.
The group of dancers were wonderful, so enthusiastic, and many having traveled from as far away as Spain. Even those living in Paris were a truly diverse group, including two Berber women, from Tunisia and Morocco, and a man from Mexico. We danced with passion and tenderness.
After the retreat was over, Dora and Dominique took us on a tour of central Paris by night, in the mist and snow. We even had our photos taken at the Eiffel Tower! And then they took us to their favourite vegetarian restaurant – a real treat in Paris, as you can imagine.
We have been invited to return early next year and we can’t wait to breathe in the atmosphere of the place once again.

Jilani Cordelia Prescott and Robert Orange

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About Cordelia Jilani Prescott

Jilani has been playing viola for the Dances of Universal Peace since 1997, and leading Dances since 2005, becoming certified as a Dance Leader in May 2008. Sufism is her spiritual path, along with motherhood (she has three sons) and music. She has worked as a musician and teacher since 1989 and spent several years training as a healer. She brings these skills to her Dance leading, with a teaching style that is light and down-to-earth, but powerful. She has led Dances throughout the UK since 2005, and has travelled internationally to share Dances in Europe, Morocco and the USA. In addition she runs regular groups and retreats at her home, the Heart Centre, a small retreat centre near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Jilani loves to work with trainee Dance Leaders, and especially with young people, helping them to fulfill their potential as leaders and musicians with the dances. She also works with her own Sufi students, and leads a monthly Zikr and a weekly Ruhaniat Sufi class.