HISTORY
- Bakhchisaray
- Khan Palace
  SIGHTS OF PALACE

- Scheme of Palace

MAIN OBJECTS

Palace Square

Khan Mosque

Sarı Güzel Bath

Demir Qapı Portal

Divan Hall

Summer Arbour

Smaller Mosque
Golden Fountain
"Fountain of Tears"

HAREM

Living Rooms
Falcon Tower
Cemetery of Khans
Durbe of Dilara
CRIMEAN KHANS
- Giray dynasty
- List by names
- List by reigns
MUSEUM IN PALACE
- The Preserve
- Contacts
- Work time

THE BAKHCHISARAY HISTORICAL & CULTURAL PRESERVE

Khan Palace in Bakhchisaray

the museum website

  THE HAREM

Harem building

Harem (the women’s part of the house) is a universal concept for the Muslim world. The harem should be arranged both in a poor dwelling and in the palace of a monarch. The dwelling of the Crimean khans included a harem as well. The women of the Khan Palace lived here: khans’ mothers, unmarried sisters and daughters, wives and a number of female servants. The population of the Harem was not numerous: not everybody from the Crimean rulers realized the right to have four spouses and evidences on presence of concubines in the Harem are extremely rare in historical sources. The Harem of the Bakhchisaray Palace was incomparable with that huge Harem which took up almost the third part of the Top Kapı palace in Istanbul.

Men from the khan dynasty married women from Crimean Tatar (Şırın, Sicevut) or Noğay (Mansur) noble families. From the end of the 16th century they married also Circassian princesses, mainly from the clan of Cane. Women from the Crimean ruling dynasty were given to marriage to bey s and mirza s from the same Crimean Tatar and Noğay families (but never to Circassian clans) or to Turkish sultans. It is known, for example, that Ayşe hanım, a daughter of Menli I Giray, was a spouse of the famous sultan Selim I (1512-1520).

Detail from a wooden portal in the Harem

Besides women, the future governors of the Crimean country – khans’ little sons until 7 years old – lived in the Harem. Leaving the Harem, the boys started their education. Sometimes they were educated at home, but there was also another way of education of the future rulers, called atalıq . It meant that a young member of the khan dynasty was sent to Circassia where he received a perfect physical and military training under supervision of atalıq s (local princes, which often were related to the Crimean dynasty). Ties between atalıq s and their aluminises kept forever and were very tight. The same could be said about the relations between the Crimean khans and their emeldeş es ("foster brothers"), i.e. children of atalıq s.

It is known very little about the life in the Harem. Travelers, diplomats and other people who could leave their descriptions of the Harem had no access to the private apartments of the Crimean khans while the own archive of the Palace has not remained being burned by Russian soldiers in the 18th century. 

Still women of the Harem were mentioned in other historical sources from which we learn a bit about their life. So, for example, there was a special post of anabei in the court hierarchy. Mothers or elder sisters of the ruling khans were appointed to that post. Anabeis attended sessions of the Divan and played an important role in the court life. The khans often listened to their opinion (even such a great strategist and outstanding ruler as Ğazı II Giray, 1588...1607, did not neglect advices of his senior sister Qutluğ sultani). Sometimes khans’ wives wrote letters to foreign rulers (kings of Poland and princes of Muscovy) helping the khans in their diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries.

Time to time historical sources show women from the Khan Palace as pilgrims to Mecca, as sponsors who built mosques in the Crimean capital, as poetesses. 

Interior of the Drawing Room

From the beginning the Harem complex consisted of four buildings. Three of them have been destroyed instead of repair in the 1820s. The only remained building is nowadays professionally restored and accessible for the guests of the Palace. It has a look of a low building with a wide terrace and three rooms (conditionally called "Dining room", "Living room" and "Drawing room"). Traditional interiors of rich Crimean Tatar dwellings of the 18th-19th centuries are represented in the premises of the Harem building. They give an idea about initial interiors of the Harem itself.

© B.H.C.S.P. 2004
Texts © Oleksa Haiworonski, 2004