All photos by Chantelle D’mello
The show, called “Harem Al Sultan” in Arabic and “Magnificent Century in English,” has gained fans across the Middle Eastern region, been broadcasted in over 54 countries and now enjoys a viewership of more than 200 million worldwide.
An exhibition showcasing scenes, original props, decor, artifacts and costumes from the TV show debuted in Istanbul last year, and is currently housed in the Qatar Museums gallery in Katara.
The drama follows the life of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hürrem Sultan, a former slave named Alexandra who becomes one of the most powerful women in the empire.
Episodes focus particularly on the couple’s relationship and Süleyman’s efforts to consolidate his power throughout his 46-year reign following the death of his father.
In a statement, Hüsnü Akhan, the CEO of Turkish media conglomerate Doğuş Media Group, said that the exhibit was “a throwback to one of the most illustrious and exceptional periods in our history.”
“(We) endeavor to touch the spirit of the past to make better sense of the present, and build a more prosperous future. Preserving cultural heritage has a special position among the efforts of the group in fulfilling its corporate citizenship mission.”
Visitors are first welcomed to the dimly lit exhibition by a standing army of Ottoman warriors in traditional fighting gear, complete with shields, bow and arrows and metallic helmets.
There is also a realistic, life-sized silicone figure of Burak Özçivit, a Turkish model and actor who plays Bali Bey, the commander of the Ottoman Army.
The exhibition then leads into the women’s quarters, where mannequins masquerading as ladies-in-waiting are dressed in long, flowing robes in a palatial living room setting.
Amongst them is another life-like silicone figure of Nur Fettahoglu, a German-born Turkish actress who plays Mahidevran Sultan, the emperor’s first wife.
A courtyard seemingly in session follows, and includes a sculpture of Pargalı İbrahim, one of the most powerful Grand Viziers at the time.
The exhibit ends with a large, palatial bedroom complete with iron castwork mirrors, lanterns, vases and four-poster beds, along with two sculptures of the Sultan and his wife.
According to organizers, the immersive experience aims to “take visitors on a journey through the palace of Harem Al Sultan to experience what it felt like to be living in an era of greatness and dangerous ambitions.”
Guests will get an up close and personal look at the artistry and craftsmanship that went into creating the iconic props and costumes that appeared throughout the famous series illustrating the life and times of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The exhibit, which runs for the next three months, also includes a gift shop stocked with items inspired from the series – jewelry, costumes and Turkish Ottoman arts and crafts.
Harem Al Sultan is open from 10am to 8pm on Saturday and from Monday to Thursday, as well as from 3 to 9pm on Fridays.