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


The Library section allows you to explore the background to the Odalisquian world in more depth, with modern books you can buy and excerpts from contemporary accounts of harems, slave markets etc, along with some Orientalist poetry from the period.

Odalisquian books
A selection of books about odalisques, harems, orientalist painting, and belly dance - all of which are available from Amazon. Each book title is accompanied by its cover image and a description. You can use the links to Amazon to read a range of reviews from people who have bought the book.

Bon's Seraglio - the Ottoman Sultan's harem in 1607
There is for this purpose a place in Constantinople, near the Bezisten, where every wednesday, in the open street, there are bought and sold slaves of all sorts, and every one may freely come to buy for their several uses; some for nurses, some for servants, and some for their lustful appetites ...

Dallaway's Constantinople, Ancient and Modern, 1797
The females of the seraglio are chiefly Georgian and Circassian slaves, selected from all that are either privately bought, or exposed to sale in the Avret Bazar, and, for many reasons, are admitted at an early age. We may readily conclude that an assemblage of native beauty so exquisite, does not exist in any other place ...

Edward Lane's Modern Egyptians, 1836
Very few of the Egyptians avail themselves of the licence, which their religion allows them, of having four wives; ... but some prefer the possession of an Abyssinian slave to the more expensive maintenance of a wife; and keep a black slave-girl, or an Egyptian female servant, to wait upon her, to clean and keep in order the apartments of the hareem, and to cook ...

M. Von Tietz St. Petersburg, Constantinople, and Napoli di Romania, Vol II, 1837
there is a gate, built in a high dark wall, which leads to the market of female slaves ... it was by no means, nor under any circumstances, permitted to a Christian to visit this market ...

Allom and Walsh Constantinople and the Scenery of Seven Churches of Asia, 1838
The Aurut Bazaar, or Female Slave Market, stands in the quarter of the city near the burnt column. It consists of a quadrangular edifice, including a square area of about two hundred feet, surrounded with apartments. In the front are platforms raised four or five feet from the ground, and ascended by steps, forming a kind of colonade, and in the rear are latticed windows. In the one, blacks and slaves of an inferior kind are kept and disposed of; in the other those of a choicer quality, who are guarded with a more jealous vigilance, and secluded from the public eye. ...

Charles White Three years in Constantinople
Although it is extremely difficult for Franks, or even Rayas, to obtain access to the houses where Circassian women are educated for sale, accident enabled me, during the spring of 1842, to accompany a Turkish officer ...

Sophia Lane-Poole's An Englishwoman in Egypt, 1844
No person can imagine the strictness of the hareem without adopting its seclusion, nor can a stranger form a just estimate of the degree of liberty enjoyed by the women without mixing in Eastern society. One thing is certain, that if a husband be a tyrant, his wife is his slave; but such cases are extremely rare ...

Robert Curzon's Visits To Monasteries in the Levant, 1849
This custom of being waited upon by the ladies is rather distressing to our European notions of devotion to the fair sex: and I remember being horrified shortly after my arrival in Egypt at the manners of a rich old jeweller to whom I was introduced. His wife, a beautiful woman, superbly dressed in brocade, with gold and diamond ornaments, waited upon us during the whole time that I remained in the house ...

Melek Hanum's Thirty years in a harem, 1872
where a lady wishes to bring them up as her slaves, either to accustom them to her service, or to re-sell them at a profit when they are older ... their mistress makes them dress becomingly, teaches them to conduct themselves properly, and to speak the Turkish language. Their attention is bestowed on the cultivation of the particular talent by which they are to distinguish themselves; such as music, dancing, hairdressing, etc ...

Aloysius Coll's A Quaternion of the Seraglio, 1904
Then let that woman be thy minister who makes thy glance her soul, thy wish her only creed.

Demetra Vaka-Brown Haremlik, 1909 and A child of the Orient, 1914
At the upper end of the trade the tradition continued whereby upper-class women bought Circassian girls and educated them into cultivated and elegant women to go as concubines and wives to elite harems, or trained them as dancers and entertainers. Vaka Brown among others reports on this ...