Istanbul – Topkapı Palace!

Topkapi meaning Cannon Gate served as the main residences and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans who walked and lived in the palace for 400 years. Built in 1453 after the conquest by Mehmet the Conqueror. The palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but not all are available to the public.

Today, Topkapi Palace is part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul and guarded by armed military forces and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The Museum is closed on Tuesdays and on first days of the religious festive days until afternoon. Any of the sacred places in Turkey request a dress code wherein shorts, mini-skirts or strapless clothing not allowed.

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The visit to the Harem requires additional ticket price which is around 42 TL. I am mentioning the Harem more because it’s the most fascinating part of the Palace and something new from all the Palaces I had visited, giving a glimpse of the Ottoman Empires fascinating lives. The word ‘harem’ literally means ‘forbidden’ or ‘private’. And if you are interested then the whole concept of the ‘Harem’ goes like this.

The Sultans supported almost 300 concubines in the Harem, who after entering, would be schooled in Islam and Turkish culture apart from learning other creative avenues like music, make-up, embroidery, dancing etc. They then enter as ladies-in-waiting to the Sultan’s concubines and children, then to the Valide Sultan and finally – if they were particularly attractive and talented – to the Sultan himself. 

As per Islamic law the Sultan can have four legitimate wives, who received the title of Kadın (wife). If a wife bore him a son she was called Haseki Sultan; if she bore him a daughter, Haseki Kadın.

Ruling the Harem was the Valide Sultan (legal mother of the ruling Sultan), who often owned large landed estates in her own name and controlled them through black eunuch servants. Able to give orders directly to the grand vizier, her influence on the Sultan, on his wives and concubines, and on matters of state was often profound.

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When you walk in the corridors, the rooms and the places where all of these lives were once striving and living, its most fascinating thing to capture in your memories and of course Photographs too.

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