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10 Unknown Secrets of Harem Life at the Topkapi Palace

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  1. The concept of the Harem has provoked much speculation. Curiosity about the unknown and inaccessible inspired highly imaginative literature among the people of the western world.
  2. The word Harem which in Arabic means “forbidden” refers to the private sector of a Moslem household in which women live and work.
  3. The word Harem is also used for women dwelling there.
  4. In traditional Moslem society the privacy of the household was universally observed and respectable women did not socialize with men to whom they were not married or related.
  5. Because the establishment of a formal Harem was an expense beyond the means of the poor, the practice was limited to elite groups, usually in urban settings.
  6. Since Islamic law allowed Moslems to have a maximum of four wives, in a Harem there would be up to four wives and numerous concubines and servants.
  7. Having a harem, in general, was traditionally a mark of wealth and power.
  8. The Sultan’s daily life was very simple. In addition to regular daily activities, in order to broaden their perspectives, sultans brought scholars, poets, artists and historians to the palace.
  9. Most of the sultans in the Ottoman Empire encouraged these skills and developed many skills themselves. They commissioned new works, manuscripts and bindings, were ardent readers, competent calligraphers, poets, archers, riders, javelin players, hunters, composers, etc.
  10. In daily life at the palace, silence was dominant. The hundreds of people in the palace tried not to meet the sultan unless necessary. In attempting to keep their voices down, it was even said that people of the court sometimes developed a system of body language among themselves.
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