Sunday, September 3, 2017


Dolmabahçe, Beşiktaş - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°02'21.9"N 29°00'06.2"E / 41.039403, 29.001728


Other principal sections are the suite of the Valide Sultan (sultan’s mother), the so-called Blue and Pink salons, the bedrooms of sultans Abdülmecid, Abdülaziz and Mehmed V. Reşad, the section housing the lower ranking palace women known as the Cariyeler Dairesi, the rooms of the sultan’s wives (kadınefendi), and the study and bedroom used by Atatürk. All the main rooms are furnished with valuable carpets, ornaments, paintings, chandeliers and calligraphic panels.


Harem entrance hall is in the middle level of the Sultan’s apartment in the Harem. The two entrances (one facing the Bosphorus strait, the other facing the rear courtyard) were used by the Sultan for entering or leaving the Royal quarters. The rooms adjoining the hall were allocated to the use of the women who served the Sultan (Cariye). On either side of the staircase stand two pink vase candelabras which are the rare examples of Turkish made lighting accessories found in the Palace collection.

The doors leading to the main Harem entry hall are directly across from the door leading to the mother’s apartment and lead from the Harem garden and street. The carriages of the women going on a visit outside the palace would line up in front of this door and the women would be escorted through the door of the Sultan’s mother. The frescoes that line the borders of the ceiling are among the main features of this hall which are decorated with some interesting furnishings, like the large vase and tray of malachite, a malchalite table and end tables, a table clock veneered with malchalite.


The self-contained Harem occupies two thirds of the palace, corridors linking it to the Mabeyn and the Ceremonial Hall. Access to the Harem was by iron and wooden doors, through which only the sultan could pass freely. Here are a series of salons and galleries whose windows look out onto the İstanbul Strait, and leading off them the suites of rooms belonging to the sultan's wives, the high ranking female officials of the Harem, and the sons, brothers, daughters and sisters of the sultan.

Harem-i Humayun is the private section of Sultan and his family and it was connected to the Selamlik section by a long corridor which was guarded all the time to make sure that nobody passes. Despite of being influenced by Western architecture and being built by taking European palaces as an example, in Dolmabahce, the Harem was designed as a separate section, although not rigid as it used to be in terms of space arrangements and functional relations.

The Harem area in the Dolmabahce Palace was set aside as the private residence of the Sultan, his mother, his official wives, royal princes and princesses. Harem has ten separate apartments; eight of these were set aside for the official and unofficial wives (Favorites) who were the mothers of the royal princes and princesses. The Harem also included a guest suite for special guests. The first two apartments are situated parallel to the Bosphorus Strait and these were reserved for the ruling Sultan and his mother.

Harem-i Humayun is a private living space integrated to the whole under the same roof so it is not a building separated from the Palace. Harem was strictly prohibited by any man to go in, except the sultan himself of course and the eunuch servants. The Harem section is formed by several halls, rooms and baths. There were rooms for official wives, suites of the sultan, quarter of the Queen mother (Valide Sultan), favorites (Gözde) and concubines (Cariye), and some education rooms for the young children of the sultan.

The other apartments in the harem were positioned at right angles to the sea. Each of the apartments has three stories and each has its own attic area as well. The apartments of the official and unofficial wives were situated in the middle of Sultan and his mother’s apartment enabling the queen mother to monitor the passing of the ladies to and from the Sultan’s apartment. Sultan’s mother (Mother Queen, and in Turkish Valide Sultan) was always on top of the rest of the ladies in hierarchy.

The Cariyes, (Concubines or maids in waiting) have also their apartments in this area. The Harem service bureaucracy was supervised by the “Mistress of the Harem”, the chief female chamberlain. Among those superintendent level maids in waiting assigned to provide services to the Sultan’s apartment were the head housekeeper, her deputy, the head coffee maker, the head urn carrier, the head food taster, the head barber, the head laundry woman, and other “first class” maids in waiting to the palace.

These maids had their own assistants who made up the “second class” of women serving the Sultan. Besides these women, there were approximately twenty other “high ranking” people (Mansipli) who provided special services to the Sultan’s private quarters. There were the other third class, fourth class servants in service like the person who maintained the stoves, the nursing stuff, and the medical officer.

It was not only Sultan’s apartment that employed a staff. Servants were assigned to each of the apartments in the Harem and even to the newly born princes and princesses. The word Cariye (Concubine) at that time referred to someone who was in the personal service of the Sultan, his mother, his wives and his children. During the reform period each apartment was assigned approximately ten Cariye among whom assigned to to Princes and Princesses was that of “Chief Governess”.

In the line of rank the Governess was followed by the wet nurse. Usually the daughters of the wet nurses were also among those who helped the young royals. There were generally between five and ten women in varying responsibilities who cared for the infants.

Among the most interesting and impressive features of Harem there are Blue and Pink Halls, the apartment of Valide Sultan (Mother Sultan), the rooms of Sultans Abdulmedjid, Abdulaziz and also Resad, matrons rooms, concubines section, Great Ataturk's study and bedroom and many valuable artifacts such as rugs and kilims, furniture, chandeliers, inscriptions, vases, oil paintings etc. Rooms and three baths of Harem-i Humayun section arranged informally around ten large halls, five on each floor.

Hall (I) of the Royal Women’s Apartment
The rooms located on the upper floor of the Harem that lead to the apartments of the wives and princesses were used for private parties and meetings hosted by members of the Harem. A wide staircase connects the first saloon with the main Harem entry hall below. A Japanese cabinet is one of the most interesting furnishings of this room.

Made up of both open shelves and areas closed with doors, the cabinet utilizes various decoration techniques including mother-of-pearl and ivory inlay, open work carvings on the wooden areas, doors covered with embroidered silk fabrics, and lacquered workmanship on the drawer faces and doors. This techniques could only have been done by different artisans, thus increasing the overall value of the piece. On the opposite wall is the large barrel organ made up of six barrels that emit music when the notes over them are turned. To the right of the women’s saloon is the upper floor of the corner apartment.

Apartments of the Royal Women
The bedroom furniture in this apartment was made in Istanbul and Rococo in style. The atmosphere is dominated by the rose motifs on the fabrics, a pattern that is repeated in the draperies. The ceiling and murals in the “everyday guest” room are decorated in a manner that is close to traditional Ottoman style and is different from most other sections that is decorated in western styles. The pieces that make up the living room set was carved on all four sides with very fine wood carving workmanship. The colors of the tile stove accord with the pastel tones that make up the main colors of the room itself.

Hall (II) of the Royal Women’s Apartment
This hall was used during the Ottoman period to host several activities and festivities as the party to mark the fact that a prince or princess had mastered the arts of reading, other such events / Qu’ran recitations, evening prayers during Ramadan, and prayers for the deceased).

The Baths of the Royal Women and the Mother Queen
The first of the baths along the corridor that overlooks the pool garden was designated for the use of Wives and the princesses. The second bath was reserved for the Mother Queen. The baths were entered from two separate dressing rooms, identified as the “cool” section. These two baths are symmetric in design and are reminiscent of the traditional “paired” baths used by the public (identical and adjacent separate areas set aside for men and women).

The Sultan’s Tiled Turkish Bath and Resting Room
The bath used by the Sultan reflects all of the traditional features of a Turkish bath consisting the “cool”, “hot”, and “resting” sections. The walls covered with tiles decorated with Art-Nouveau violet colored flowers which were the characteristics of the early 20th century art. The carved marble platform, basins, and the eagle figure perches on top of the faucets give the bath a unique appearance.

One of the most beautiful stoves of the palace collection is in this bath. The stove is made of ceramic plates decorated with traditional Ottoman motifs in shades of cobalt blue, turquoise, and green on a white background. The atmosphere of the resting room is enriched by the Turkish carpets on the floor.

The Blue Hall
The hall was named as “Blue Hall” due to the colors highlighted in its draperies and upholsteries. The Sultan, the Royal Women, and first class maids celebrated the Ramadan and Sacrificial holidays in this hall. As from the second half of the 19th century onwards the Ottoman Sultans used this hall for official receptions of foreign head of states. The Sultan’s mother, (or in her absence the head wife) would use this room to welcome and entertain the wife/wives of visiting head of state.

Even the wives or children of the Sultan were only allowed to enter or leave this hall by invitation or appointment. Members of the palaces’s most elite servants, persons directly selected by the Sultan himself, would guard the lower and upper floors of this hall throughout the day, having the full responsibility for everything that took place here. The four corners of the ceiling sectioned off with gold leaf panels have been decorated with landscapes representing the four seasons.

The carpet on the floor reflects European carpet design. The chandelier is made of French Baccarat crystal. The interior design, especially that of the Harem, was the work of French designer Sechan. In 1937 an elevator which has recently been restored, was built into the air shaft for the use of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is now on exhibition for visitors, thus recreating a living memory of the founder of Turkish Republic.

Sultans Resting Room
The room at the corner of the blue hall was used by the Sultan for resting and performing his religious rites. During the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, the room was used to preserve the sacred beard hairs of the Prophet. The ceiling is decorated with frescoes and the wall with murals. Among the interesting pieces of the furniture are the gold leaf bedroom set and wardrobe. The decoration is complete with a Hereke carpet of scattered flower design.

Pink Hall
During the Ottoman period the hall was used by the Mother of the Sultan as her living room in which she hosted her special guests together with the other important Royal members of the Harem. Some of the family gathering that Sultan also participated were held here. A silver brazier stands in front of the Neo-Gothic corner seating arrangement bearing the Ottoman coat of arms that lines the walls of the Pink hall.

The rug in the center of the room is one of the palace’s best Hereke carpets. One of the paintings in this hall is the work of French artist Pierre Desire Guillement, while another is signed by Charles Chaplin. Among the portraits is the one of Dürrüşehvar Sultan, the daughter of the last Caliph, Abdulmecid Efendi.

The Palace of the Crown Prince
On the east of the harem section The Palace of the Crown Prince is located. It is a separate structure and they are separated by a wall but it appears as an extension of the main palace when viewed from the water.


The administrative (Men’s) section of the palace ends with the apartment of the Sultan and the Harem section begins with the Sultan’s second apartment. For the time being, only the Sultan’s Royal room on the upper floor of the Harem is open to public. This room is known as the “Crimson Room” due to the tones of red used on the walls and the furniture. Sultan used this room in the Harem for receptions and resting. Here he received his wives, children, other members of the dynasty, and Harem officials.

The walls of the room are covered with wooden panels clothed with a fabric. The interior design was the work of one of the palace designers, Sechan. After the completion of the design and paperwork, it was first submitted to Sultan for his approval and then it was applied later on. The gilding and white lacquer of the furniture is a very good example of Neo-classical, Rococo style.

The ebony table in the center of the room was embellished with the monogram of Sultan Abdülmecid. The fireplace is huge and combines the movement, depth, and the magnificence representing the Baroque with that of “Empire” style. The floral motifs and decorative elements lined up across the marble surface created by carving, relief, and gluing techniques and then a great deal of gilding was used to complete the embellishments.


While the number of women serving the Sultan often changed, there were an average 20 – 25 “Cariye” (maids-in-waiting) at most times. The head of these women was called the “Hazinedar Usta” (Mistress of the Harem) who was the highest ranking of the cariyes. Throughout the day she both guard the quarters and served the Sultan. The rooms are located in the Harem Entrance hall; the two seaside rooms adjoining the hall and the rooms located at the landside were used by cariyes.

The first room was called “Mother of pearl room” for its beautiful wooden furniture inlaid with mother of pearl. The cabinets placed at the both ends of the main table, was made with a kind of parquetry technique called “Eser-i Istanbul” in which tortoise shells were used for the background of the relief. The mirrored cabin and writing desks are of Damascus style, embellished with a relief of almond shaped wood outlined with fine silver wires.

The second corner room at the landside of the Hall was also allocated to the use of cariyes; this room contains a collection of furniture made with parquetry style, which was traditional in the southern states of the Ottoman Empire. In this traditional style, wood of varying colors is cut into tiny, micrometric size pieces and then joined into a geometrical composition. This very fine parquetry workmanship can be seen in all of the pieces in this room.


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