Topkapi Palace – The Harem

Apart from the Treasury, the other most popular part of the Palace is The Harem.  You’d need a separate ticket to enter the harem and there is a usually long queue to get in.  The harem was the private zone of the palace  and the sultan’s family, siblings and concubines lived here, together with the eunuchs who served this large family lived.  Life in the harem was presided over by the sultan’s mother whose apartments lay in the centre, allowing her customary domination and manipulation.

The harem consists of long narrow hallways and there are some 400 rooms scattered around small courtyards.  Over the years, it was altered and enlarged.  The harem was strictly closed to outsiders, and of course it became the subject of many stories or scandals over the centuries. The concubines that served the sultan and his family were either chosen from among the most beautiful and healthy girls of different races or they were presented to the court as gifts.

In 1909, the harem was disbanded and some of the rooms were then opened to visitors in 1960.


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