The Harem of Topkapi Palace

The meaning of the word harem in Arabic language is, “a holy place that everyone is not allowed to enter”. In Muslim societies, it is a notion which defines intimate family life. In Ottoman tradition, the word "Harem" was used in two different senses. First, "the sultan's harem" his family, and the second meaning would have referred to the space where his family lived. Besides constituting the core of the dynasty, the palace harem forming a wing of the cadre of sultan’s household officials recruited via devshirme (devşirme) - a system of recruitment of youngsters of foreign background for serving the Ottoman Empire - was also an environment serving the purpose of creating a sound state aristocracy by wedding the concubines having received a disciplined education to the recruit-aghas (squires) who had been thoroughly educated and trained at the Palace’s Enderûn School.

The Topkapi Palace Harem was the living space of the Sultan, the Queen Mother, the sultan’s women, children, brothers and sisters and servants and concubines and Black Eunuchs who were the protectors of the Harem. This set of structures, which constituted the private and prohibited space of the Ottoman dynasty, underwent a constant evolution from the 16th until the beginning of the 19th century, displaying a great variety of building styles changing with each period, hence forming an extremely important and interesting complex from the point of view of architectural history. Expanded in time through the additions made by each sultan, the Topkapı Palace Harem today consists of about 300 rooms, 9 baths, 2 mosques, 1 hospital, 1 laundry, and numerous wards of different kinds.

Visiting Information
Winter Season: Between October 26th - April 15th Harem can be visited between 9:00 AM - 4:45 PM Ticket booths close at 4:00 PM
Summer Season: Between April 15th - October 26th Harem can be visited between 9:00 AM - 6:45 PM Attention: Ticket booths close at 6:00 PM
Closed: Harem is not available to visit on Tuesdays.

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