The Paved Courtyard of The Wives and The Paved Courtyard of The Concubines The Harem of Topkapı Palace (which was supported by many other dynastic palaces, particularly the Old Palace) made up one branch of the Ottoman devşirme system of recruiting young children and training them for state service. The courtyard, the smallest in the Harem and which opens onto the Wives’ Apartments and the Concubines’ Dormitories is known due to its location as both the Paved Courtyard of the Wives and the Paved Courtyard of the Concubines. The long and narrow courtyard is connected on one side to the area of the Black Eunuchs and on the other to the Paved Courtyard of the Queen Mother and the Chamber of the Master Craftsmen. After passing through this courtyard, one arrives at the section where the women of the Harem lived.
It is believed that the Apartments of the Wives and the Apartment of the Queen Mother located on this courtyard were built in the time of Sultan Murad III (r. 1574-95). There were three separate apartments for the wives. Each one having two storeys, fireplaces and tiled walls. The Apartments Of The Wives The Apartments of the Wives were the residences of those who had born the sultan a child. These apartments, whose lower levels were used as dormitories for servant concubines, are generally believed to have been built at the same time as the Apartment of the Queen Mother (approximately 1585; during the reign of Sultan Murad III). It is also thought that it was the sultan’s wives (or “Kadın Efendi”) who lived in these apartments, and that they were closer to the sultan’s mother than they were to the sultan himself.
Most of the concubines in the Harem were Circassians from the Caucasus although there were Arab and black concubines as well. All were taken into the palace between the ages of 5 and 16. Their education was similar to that received by the boys of the Inner Palace: they would first be taught Turkish and the etiquette of the palace. The majority of concubines would be taken for employment as servants and they would, after an initial period of training, be transferred to services related to the laundry, the bathhouse furnaces, the pantries, and meal service. Those deemed pretty and intelligent, however, would be trained by experienced women according to their particular aptitudes, learning such things as reading and writing, sewing, embroidery, music, and dancing. The highest-ranking women of the palace bore the title Kadın, literally meaning “woman” or “lady”. Those concubines who became “favorites” (known as has odalık, gözde, or ikbâl) or who bore the sultan a child would be raised to the status of wife (Kadın Efendi) or favorite wife (Haseki Sultan). Not all of the concubines chosen and educated for the sultan would be taken into the Harem; some of these girls would be given in marriage to men of appropriate importance and would live outside of the palace.
The Harem Hospital On the paved courtyard of the hospital, also known as the Courtyard of the Concubines, were the two-storey stone dormitory of the concubines. The floorsa were laid with carpets from Şirvan in the southeast of modern-day Turkey. There was a bathhouse (hamam); a laundry; a sick ward; a kitchen for hospital patients; a chamber for the final ablution of the dead; and the Gate of the Dead (Meyyit Kapısı), where the funerals of concubines were begun. This section of the Harem is reached by means of the stone stairs known as the “40 Steps”.