>A very touristy day in Istanbul

August 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

In the morning, we ran into a girl with a Housing Works bag, who currently lives in Turkey, but used to live in New York. She didn’t seem as excited as I was to see her, but she still let me take her picture.

From there we visited Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque. The best part of the day was visiting the Harem at the Topkapi Palace, which was so intricately designed and will surely lose in translation whether I try to explain through words or images. I am still confused and surprised that such a private and conservative culture would be so publicly proud of their harem. It seems like such a huge cultural contradiction, but then they Turkish government must have realized that sex sells.

Another interesting part of the history is that the sultans would sleep with the enslaved women in the harem. These were women sold to Turkey from neighboring countries. When the women of the harem had children, some of their sons would be chosen to become princes. Eventually a prince would become the next sultan. In other words, there is a long line of sultans who are not “fully” Turkish. Each sultan descendant would be a little more removed from the Turkish bloodline. I haven’t read much about this, but I think it’s fascinating when juxtaposed with what seems to be a long tradition in Turkey of killing or kicking out groups of people from other heritages (whether it be religious, cultural, geographical, or racial).


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