We had been well fed, plied with wine ,and shown some of the tedious work that went into making these pieces of art. Now we watched the piles of carpet get deeper as the young man rolled them out before us. Just when we thought that was the one we liked best, it disappeared under another beauty and we changed our minds again.
Carpets have been a way of life in Turkey for millennia. People in this part of the world began as nomadic people and many still are. Carpets became the only kind of furniture that they needed because they could just fold up their tents and head off to the next watering hole. When we need to could just fold up their tents and head off to the next watering hole.
When we need to move, three men come with a big trailer.
My wife Bettyann and I spent a month travelling around Turkey last fall. We started in Istanbul but journeyed as far south as Bodrum on the Aegean Sea and Urfa in the eastern end of Turkey next to Syria and Iraq. The tradition of carpet-making was evident all over Turkey. We were at a Handicraft Festival in Urfa and saw a young lady working on a small loom. She told us that only young girls like herself have hands small enough to make silk carpets. The material is so fine that a mature hand will not fit amongst the silk threads. Her mother had been teaching her how to make carpets since the age of 10, she said.
Urfa is the birthplace of Abraham and several other prophets from both the Christian and Islamic faiths.
Upon our arrival in Urfa, we were taken to the town of Harran which is where Abraham lived for many years. The homes are made of adobe and have small, beehive-shaped roofs just as they did thousands of years ago. These homes were designed to be cool in the heat of a desert summer and warm when the cold weather comes. He were able to go in one home and there saw how wonderfully they were furnished with carpets just as they have been through the ages. Turkey provides an abundance of opportunities to help you find a carpet of your own. There are small shops on the streets, huge shops in places like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and others shops where they are willing to ply you with food and drink to persuade you to buy.
We put our faith in Zafer, the man who owned the Su Hotel where we stayed in Bodrum. He wanted to do everything he could to help his guests feel welcome and comfortable. He took us to some friends who had a carpet shop in a village called Etrin. Jenny, a guest from England, also wanted to go so the four of us got into Zafer's 4x4 and took the half-hour drive around the coast.
We stopped first at the home of Zafer's friend. He was born there and when he got married 50 years ago his father allowed hirn to build his own home on one end of the barn. When his father died, he moved into the big house which was built over a stable. He still keeps cattle under there because it keeps die house warm.
The old man welcomed us into his home and brought us some traditional lemon oil to rub on our hands. On the kitchen floor sat his wife, working at a carpet loom as she had for the past 65 years. Her mother had taught her to weave carpets at the age of 10. She smiled andsaid that now that she is old, she just makes small carpets, she lets her daughters make the big ones.
There was one more room that was used as a living room and a bedroom. At night, they laid down a few carpets and that became their bed. It was easy to see how the carpet had become part of their way of life.
A short walk down the lane to his son's house and we were greeted by his daughter-in-law. She showed us how she carded the wool into two grades. The finer grade was spun into wool for the best carpets and the rougher wool was used to make kilim (a lower grade flat carpet). She showed us how she used a spinner to spin the wool into strands. Because they are in the large tobacco growing area of Milas, they use tobacco as a dye to achieve the soft brown tones for their carpets.
Zafer then took us to a large building with a covered porch, about nine metres long by nine metres wide. RESİM EKLENECEK The whole area was carpeted and there were cushions around the edge for in to sit on. Zafer asked us if we were hungry, but he already knew we were so he gave the host a nod and a few minutes later, a young man appeared with a huge tray of ethnic food. We were given napkins and Zafer served us a wonderful lunch. All the while, another young man kept our wine glasses full. We were ready.
The huge showroom contained stacks of carpets on three sides. We sat on some carpeted benches at one end and the five man began their work. Bettyannjoked that it took one woman to make the carpet and five men to sell it.
The carpets came flying before us, one after another until you couldn't remember which one it was you thought you liked. There is a co-operative and they trade amongst themselves so that each salesroom has a supply of carpets from all around Turkey. They tell you where each of the carpets comes from as they lay them before you. We asked which kind of carpet they made in Etrin and were told they specialize in the Milas carpet with the soft tobacco tones, so we started to focus an those alone. We just needed a small carpet for the front hall.
We had to stay focused as the young men rolled the carpets back up until we found the one we tought we liked. Jenny had seen one that she liked as well and they kept digging until they found the two carpets that had captured our hearts. They were Milas carpets and I thought ours should fit, at least I hoped it wouldn't be too big. Although it was small - about one metre by two metres the price of $350 came as a shock.
For other carpets, prices range up to $2,500 for a silk carpet and $3,000 for a living-room-sized wool carpet. As Bettyann became more excited, I realized that both my back and my MasterCard were doomed. The Milas was ours and the five men made sure it was folded and squashed into a bag tat did eventually fit into our suitcase. Mind you, we had to buy another one for our clothes. Jenny succumbed to die moment and took a carpet home as well. She was sure that her husband would have her head when she got back to the hotel.
The owner of die carpet stare carried both carpets back to the 4x4. As we made our way back the hotel, I realized that our carpet would fly, even if it needed a little help from Turkish Airlines.