A Sultry harem princess miss XBabylonX
Days were full for these women, since each was assigned some sort of light housekeeping task according to her ability or talent. All women were expected to be proficient in the womanly arts such as embroidery and household administration. Additionally there were structured times for eating, bathing, and exercise.
The harems of the Ottomans evolved into highly structured and hierarchical systems, with a distinct pecking order. The expectation was that any woman who entered the harem as a possible companion for the Sultan would try to ascend this ladder of power and position.
There were many women in the harems, of course. Slaves, dancers and other entertainers, educators, retired concubines, and many more. But our fascination is with those women who were destined, if they were lucky enough, smart enough, and beautiful enough, to attract the notice of the Sultan.
Upon entering the harem, these women, who may have been gifted, or even bought by the Sultan's emissaries, entered a dormitory-like group called an oda. The women slept, ate, and studied in one large room under the supervision of an older woman, usually one of the Sultan's favorites who had grown old in his service. At this stage, the maidens were called gediklis, the privileged ones.
Should a gedliki attract the attention of the Sultan in some way, she was immediately assigned the title of guzdeh, and given her own apartments and slaves. Her "allowance" was increased, and her status in the harem increased proportionately.
If a woman was summoned to the bed of the Sultan and pleased him, she became an ikbal, a favorite one. Again, she moved to larger quarters and received an increased stipend. The competition among the ikbals was fierce, for once a favorite of the Sultan, the next step was the Ottoman equivalent of "wife."
No Ottoman Sultan until Suleiman the Great, married any of his women. But the Sultans did have four Kadins. The Kadins were the equivalent of wives, and attained their titles by being the first four women to bear living children to the Sultan. Only the death of a Kadin's children resulted in her demotion and the elevation of an ikbal with living children to her place.
The title of Bas Kadin was reserved for the first of the Kadins to bear a living son to the Sultan. In other words, the Bas Kadin was the mother of the heir. She was supreme in the harem, deferring only to the Sultan Valideh. " (Excerpt from The Seraglio)