Topkapı Palace, the harem

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The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.
The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.

Thursday, during a day off from teaching, I visited Istanbul’s original Ottoman Palace, Topkapı. Yesterday I shared photos of the palace, but today will add photos of the Harem. The word “harem” is a Arabic word, meaning forbidden and it was the private residence of the Sultan and his “family.”

Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan's brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan’s brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.  The harem was the residence of the sultan's wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.
The harem was the residence of the sultan’s wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.

According to Wikipedia: “The Imperial Harem (Harem-i Hümayûn) occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan; it contained more than 400 rooms. The harem was home to the sultan’s mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. The harem consists of a series of buildings and structures, connected through hallways and courtyards. Every service team and hierarchical group residing in the harem had its own living space clustered around a courtyard. The number of rooms is not determined, with probably over 100,[78] of which only a few are open to the public. These apartments (Daires) were occupied respectively by the harem eunuchs, the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darüssaade Ağası), the concubines, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts, the princes and the favorites. There was no trespassing beyond the gates of the harem, except for the sultan, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts and favourites, the princes and the concubines as well as the eunuchs guarding the harem.

The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by Mimar Sinan. The harem section opens into the Second Courtyard (Divan Meydanı), which the Gate of Carriages (Arabalar Kapısı) also opens to. The structures expanded over time towards the Golden Horn side and evolved into a huge complex. The buildings added to this complex from its initial date of construction in the 15th century to the early 19th century capture the stylistic development of palace design and decoration. Parts of the harem were redecorated under the sultans Mahmud I and Osman III in an Italian-inspired Ottoman Baroque style. These decorations contrast with those of the Ottoman classical age.”

Much of the palace is under renovation, so it’s not all open to the public. Also, many of the jewels, portraits, clothing and special exhibits do not allow photographs.

The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it's height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it’s height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain and Mexico. I'm exploring the world.

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