Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
I join a horde of men waiting outside the Imperial Harem of the Topkapı Palace, eager for a glance inside. For most men the harem isn’t just another tourist landmark of Istanbul, merely something to cross off on their ‘to see’ list. No, for inside the stone compound lies a rare and much coveted opportunity. An opportunity to walk through the stone courtyard and see – feel – what it would have been like to be a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, living some four hundred years ago, with 500 of the most beautiful women in all the lands between China and Rome at his will and whim. Every straight man’s fantasy in a housing complex 400 by 400 feet, filled with plush cushions, thick Ottoman carpets, lit by braziers burning incense, coloured by stained glass displaying the lewd, the provocative, stoking the flames in the fire and tickling the deepest recesses of the imagination. And he pictures them; the women. Lean and lithe, but full in the right places. Dark of eye, fair of skin with petite noses and delicate earlobes; sweet or tart, hot and savoury, sugar with spice, pick your flavour, drink your wine, in the Imperial Harem the Sultan was God and his rule divine. Here, dreams were not dreamt; they were lived!
They were charging an extra 15 Liras for the tour so I moved on.