Most people think of harems as a place where
 women served at the pleasure an aging sultan.
  It actually included women and girls of all
 ages, an entire hierarchy of females expert in
 housekeeping, gardening, languages and
 nursing.  Women who did deliver children
 by the sultan were given upgraded apartments,
 food and privileges, especially for sons.
Infant mortality was high, and the sultan
wanted to keep his blood line active.
Waiting room – the sultan
would give a harem girl 24
hours to prepare herself
 for him, down to the
last eyelash.
Candles lit the room from
gold framed alcoves.
Millions of handcrafted
tiles cover every wall.

Harem is Arabic for “forbidden”, and once a
 girl crossed the threshold of the harem, she
 was there forever.  No Muslim women roamed
the harem, as the religion forbids slavery.
Bitter rivalry existed for the sultan’s 
attention, including disfigurement, 
poisoning and even murder. All under the
 watchful eyes of hundreds of eunuchs,
 considered a separate gender, neither
 male nor female.
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