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(hâr`əm) [Arabic], term applied to women's apartments in a Muslim household. In the ancient Arab world women enjoyed a certain amount of freedom. However, with the advent of Islam, the veiling and seclusion of women into harems became more common. The most famous harem, that of the sultans of Turkey, dates from the 15th cent. and included the old and new palaces on Seraglio Point, Constantinople. It was abolished with the downfall (1909) of Abd al-Hamid II. The sultan's harem often contained several hundred women, all subject to the control of the sultan's mother and guarded by eunuchs. In India the harem is called a purdah or zenana; in Iran, andarun. Although the harem is rapidly disappearing in the 20th cent., there nevertheless are still some in existence in the more remote areas of the Muslim world.


See N. M. Penzer, The Harem (1937); D. Van Ess, Fatima and Her Sisters (1961).



the women’s quarters in a wealthy Muslim household; also, in a figurative sense, its inhabitants—the wives and concubines of the master of the house. Large harems of rulers, the wealthy, and dignitaries in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries were guarded by eunuchs. Men (other than husbands and sons) were barred from the harems. Beginning in the 1920’s the harem virtually disappeared as a result of the ban on multiple marriages (for example, in Turkey in 1926), the introduction of equal social rights for women, economic and cultural progress, and the growth of the democratic movement, including the women’s movement.


, hareem
a group of female animals of the same species that are the mates of a single male
References in periodicals archive ?
were determined by dream [flying carpets, harems, children inhaling
On the one hand the first question that arises is how Muslim elite women who lived in harems can be representative of all women in the empire, and on the other hand how the condition of elite women can be take into consideration for all women even ordinary ones.
Trenery's 1855 The City of the Crescent, with Pictures of Harem Life; or, the Turks in 1854, Caroline Paine's 1859 Tent and Harem: Notes of an Oriental Trip, Cristina Belgiojoso's 1862 Oriental Harems and Scenery, Andree Harvey Hope's and Annie Jane Tennant Harvey's 1871 Turkish Harems & Circassian Homes, Demetra Vaka's 1909 Haremlik: Some Pages from the Life of Turkish Women, Anne Van Sommer's Samuel M.
But Australian scientists have found that some female elephant seals refuse to play the polygyny game, staying in the ocean and mating with whom they chose rather than joining the beachside harems.
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MUSLIM and Mormon immigrants are to be barred from bringing their HAREMS into Britain.
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It was not forbidden territory, and hence as a 'sight' could, for female eyes, be experientially authenticated; in fact by the late 1840s a visit to a harem had become a regular item on the female tourist itinerary, and in her guide of 1871, Turkish Harems and Circassian Homes, Annie Jane Harvey supplies details of how to negotiate such a visit.