Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
more posts...


"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
more pictures...


more books...

© Tanos

Furnishing the Hareem

Posted by Tanos on Sat 10 Nov 12, 12:20 AM

For a long time one of the rooms in my house was the Studio, and it was used for a few photoshoots and scenes. This autumn I've been refurnishing it as the Hareem, with an eastern theme (although I'm leaving the suspension points intact!) The photo shows the divan sofa I've built in one corner, along with some of the accessories.

The sofa is effectively two single bed bases with backboards added, forming an L shape. Two single mattresses, covers, and then lots of throws and cushions make it into a divan which is very comfortable and great for lounging around on while watching films.

There's one of the octagonal coffee tables that feature so prominently in orientalist paintings, and a little brass Turkish Delight bowl and cover from Istanbul. To the right is the brass vase, falaka stick and cane that I blogged about last month. To the left is a shisha pipe that's adapted for drinking through (I don't smoke.)

The Hareem is an out of the way room in a part of the house vanilla visitors won't stumble upon, and the door does have a lock and key if necessary. Unlike my Study which is normally out of bounds, mia is allowed to use the Hareem by herself too. As such, it is the kind of space that would be the reserved for women and the master of the house in the middle class households of Cairo described by Edward Lane in "Modern Egyptians" in the 1840s:

Edward Lane wrote:
Often he retires to recline in the hareem; where a wife or female slave watches over his repose, or rubs the soles of his feet with her hands. On such occasions, and at other times when he wishes to enjoy privacy, every person who comes to pay him a visit is told, by the servant, that he is in the hareem; and no friend expects him to be called thence, unless on very urgent business. ... The wives, as well as the female slaves, are not only often debarred from the privilege of eating with the master of the family, but also required to wait upon him when he dines or sups, or even takes his pipe and coffee, in the hareem. They frequently serve him as menials; fill and light his pipe, make coffee for him, and prepare his food, or, at least, certain dainty dishes ... The wives of men of the higher and middle classes make a great study of pleasing and fascinating their husbands by unremitted attentions, and by various arts.

The harem rooms of normal houses were not just spaces reserved for women, but a place where women could be enjoyed.

Edited Sat 10 Nov 12, 3:18 PM