The Caliphs,Sultans and other rulers of the Arab states and principalities maintained large harems. The harem or the zenana is an institution peculiar to Islam it originated from Turkey and spread all over the Muslim world. It was a place where women, wives, consorts, keeps and mistresses were kept apart in seclusion. The harems were zealously guarded and no male was allowed entry. The women in the harem were however well looked after.
The sultans and Caliphs maintained large harems. They stocked their harems with girls from Africa, Arabia and Central Asia. The Sultans and their ilk wanted European women and girls for their harems. The idea of having fair skinned European girls as part of the harem was dream of most Arabs, for the simple reason that European girls were not easily available for their pleasures and their harems. This desire for a Fair skinned white girl from Europe was the origin of the white slave trade. The Arabs were willing to pay exorbitant sums of money for these white girls and also helped finance a racket that kidnapped young white girls from the villages and towns of Europe.
The Arabs paid heavily, but insisted that a white girl entering the harem was virgin. Hence very young girls of the age of 12 to 17 were only kidnapped. No payments were made, in case it turned out that the girl was not a virgin. This had something to do with the Muslim fetish for virgins, amplified in the Koran as reward in paradise for the true believers. The kidnapping and abduction was carefully planned. A girl would first be identified and her movements tracked. At an opportune moment the girl was kidnapped and drugged. She was then speedily spirited to the coast, where an Arab ship waited.
The ship with its precious cargo then sailed to North Africa or the Middle East. The kidnappers generally treated the girls well and sold them to harems for vast sums of money running into thousands of pounds. The Arabs favored girls from France, Italy And Spain, though English girls were also kidnapped. In many cases large sums of money were also paid to bribe the port and law officials. The white slave trade flourished close to 200 years, before concerted action by the governments put a stop to this trade. In terms of numbers, this trade in white women was nowhere the volume of the Negro slave trade, but it was significant enough to be noticed.