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The Imperial Harem of Istanbul: follow the Sultan on his path to delight

Through the residence of the Sultan’s eunuchs, follow me to the most hidden part of the Topkapi palace: the Sultan’s Harem. A labyrinth of marble doors, pools, bedrooms, libraries and narrow passages awaits behind the houses of the eunuchs, guards of the harem.

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The most beautiful and clever women of the kingdom were forced here to serve as concubine to the Sultan. A maximum of four women, chosen by the Sultan’s mother for health, manners and smartness, were educated to the rank of mother of the Sultan’s children. The Sultan, his Queen mother, the eunuchs and the concubines,  lived in several of the 400 rooms of this secret city.


The Sultan used to reach the entrance to the Harem by horse. He then dismounted from his horse on the left marble stair visible on the picture above, and suddenly stepped into the first corridor. Isolated from the noise and the eyes of Istanbul, each of the inhabitants of the Imperial Harem were looking here for domination, pleasure, revenge, competition or pregnancy. Fascinating indeed, do not miss the additional entry ticket for the Harem when visiting the Topkapi Palace





Here, you finally reached the apartment of the princess: is she staring at you from behind this windows?


All pictures shot with Nikon 16-35 mm f/4 on D800 in a very lucky late afternoon of December 2013, devoid of tourists, about closing-time. Click to magnify.

Posted by lorenzoborghi on January 22, 2014
12 Comments Post a comment
  1. 01/22/2014

    Beautiful photos and such a fascinating history

    • 01/22/2014

      Thank you. I am glad you appreciated it. Usually I do not write so much as I prefer pictures to speak.
      However, as nowadays only walls and tiles are left, I wanted to describe who and what was inside this secret part of the King palace of Istanbul. A place inhabited by castrated men (the eunuchs), women chosen by the Sultan mother and the Sultan himself must have so much to say … if only walls could speak!

      • 01/22/2014

        European history is more fascinating than American history. Now I want to know more..where did everyone go? How long has it been empty? I see i will need to do a bit of research today!
        Thank you again..

    • 01/24/2014

      Not that Hugh Hefner is a Sultan and his Mansion has blue antique tiles… but it might quite resemble the atmosphere 😀

  2. 01/24/2014

    The magnificent detail is well captured by your images. Thanks for the background. M

    • 01/24/2014

      Thank you! “Well cropped” is the right word 😉 These rooms are so full of colors and shapes that most of these post pictures are quite dramatic crops of full room views. When I was there in the Harem I was so taken away by the atmosphere and history that I could not properly “focus”. For what I understood, 90 years ago these rooms were still in use… impressive.

  3. 01/25/2014

    Absolutely beautiful! What a fascinating place! Thank you for posting your photos.

    • 01/25/2014

      Thank you for your feedback! I probably made you curious about visiting Istanbul… I should ask for some percentage to the city tourist office 😀

      • 01/25/2014

        You should! I’m actually heading there in February and cannot wait to see the Topkapi Palace. Also hoping that my photographs are even half as beautiful as yours. Thanks again!

      • 01/25/2014

        Nice choice! So do not miss the next few more posts about mosques of Istanbul, Topkapi park and Bosporus, they might be inspirational too.

      • 01/25/2014

        Great! Thank you!

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