Inside the Harem
Would you judge me, dear readers, if I said that in a prior life, I might have wanted to be a whore?
The Topkapı Palace, home to Sultans of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years, serves now as a museum. And on this, my third visit to the city (following this two-day Istanbul itinerary), I finally visited while showing my Mom and Aunt around. It wasn’t the grand treasury and all its baubles that fascinated me, nor the elevated view of the historic Bosphorus, instead it was the quiet corridors and labyrinth of the Harem and its 400 rooms.
Only beautiful and intelligent girls became slaves to the Sultans, often they were captives of war. The girls were brought in at a tender age to be taught the ways of the Harem. And they weren’t allowed to leave – only with special permission from the Queen Mother (yes, the Sultan’s mother was in charge of all his concubines.)
But who would want to leave this?
The Harem was often called the “Golden Cage”, and aptly so, intricate tile work lined the walls and ceilings, beautiful inlaid wood decorated shelves and dressers. With so many concubines on rotation, I might have only had to perform once to be allowed to live in such opulence.
The whole idea of keeping apartments full of hundreds of beautiful women to satisfy the sexual desires of one man may sound absurd and demeaning (because it was), but many concubines reportedly found it to be quite a pleasant and luxurious life. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s came freedom for the ladies, many did not want to return to their meager lives.
And as long as they had free wi-fi Palace-wide, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave either.