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The Royal Harem of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848–96): The Literary Portrayal of Women's Lives by Taj al-Saltana and Anonymous ‘Lady from Kerman’

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The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the royal harem and its functions during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848–96), on the basis of two independent Persian-language sources written by noble Iranian women at the turn of nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Naser al-Din's daughter, Taj al-Saltana (1884–1936), who in her famous memoirs vividly rendered her early years spent on her imperial father's court, and ‘Lady from Kerman’ (whose identity remains, for the moment, unclear), who authored a latterly published travelogue of pilgrimage to Mecca and the holy Shi'a places in contemporary Iraq held by her in the early 1890s. The second part of the latter account is entirely dedicated to the sojourn in Tehran, where, upon coming back from the sacred journey, the woman was a frequent guest at the royal harem. Both accounts are unique as they are the only known first-hand sources penned by the female insiders of the harem in nineteenth-century Iran. Furthermore, both authors, who actually met each other, describe the same figures and events – which provide an opportunity to compare their relations and augment our knowledge about Iran in the late Naseri period.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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