What is a Harem?

   Harem is the part of the house which is set aside for the women in some Muslim countries. The word harem also refers to the women who live in it. It comes from an Arabic word meaning a sacred place.
   The women of the harem lead secluded lives. The only men they see are their husbands, fathers, and brothers. When they walk through the streets, their faces are heavily veiled. Within the harem, woman rules supreme. The women of a rich family spend their time in occupations which the men consider suitable.
   The idea of the harem did not begin with the Muslims. The ancient Babylonians and Persians had harems. So did some groups which allowed a man to have more than one wife. The harem has become identified with Muslim life, because the Koran permits Muslims to marry four wives and keep any number of concubines. But only wealthy men can afford harems. The most famous harem in the world was that of the former sultans of Turkey. Harems are disappearing in Muslim countries, although members of some of the ruling families still have them.

The Turkish bath by Ingres