Men Dancers of the East

In Muslim countries, the harem was that part of a house set apart for the women of the family. It was a place in which non-family males were not allowed. Eunuchs guarded the Sultans’ harems, which were quite large, including several hundred women who were wives and concubines. There, female dancers and musicians entertained the women living in the harem. Belly dance was performed by women for women. The rakkase is the female dancer of the Ottoman era. Becoming a rakkase or a singer was strictly forbidden for Muslim women. Even non-Muslim rakkase had to wear headscarves and very conservative dresses. Although forbidden by religion, the government tolerated music and dancing. Yet, female dancers hardly ever appeared in public.

With the absence of females in social and entertainment life, Ottoman men would watch male belly dancers, generally known as rakkas, to satisfy their need to see something aesthetic. The male dancers had more freedom when compared with rakkase. They could be either Muslim or non-Muslim. Historians say that there were two different kinds of rakkas: kocek and tavsan oglan.



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