By Saul Yale Barodofsky
The ancient city of Konya is situated in the center of the great Anatolian plateau, and is the accumulation and distribution center for the Taurus Mountains. As one of the mid-point stop-overs for travelers from Eastern Turkey on their way to Istanbul, it is a great place to catch village carpet sellers on their way to the big city. This practice is sometimes called "hotel business" and can be very rewarding.
Modern Konya is more than 20 times larger than it was in the 1950's, having grown from under 30,000 people to over 750,000 at the last census. The center of the city, however, hasn't changed a bit for over 650 years. Konya is centered around the tomb of the great poet Jellaluddin Rumi, with its attendant pilgrimage shops lining the main street, which, of course, includes many carpet shops.
Along Mevlana Cadessa (The Avenue of Jellaluddin Rumi) one can purchase statues of whirling dervishes, pictures of Rumi, books in all languages about him and his poetry, and of course all the carpets one could wish.
I have been coming to Konya for over 20 years, and have watched the children of my friends take over their family businesses. It's a comfortable place to seek out great rugs. It's also a very small town and easy to get around in.
Most tour operators quickly pass through Konya on their tours of Cappadocia & Chatul Hayuk, and thus the local carpet dealers feel left out and have become very motivated sellers. There are quite a number of dealers in Konya; mostly situated around the main street and the tomb. And, although most of them cater to tourists, there are still a few who have collectibles and they are more than worth visiting.
Konya excells in all varieties of bags, kilims, and small prayer carpets. The Taurus Mountains are just below the city, and there are still remnants of old nomadic weavings to be found. There are also a number of old mosques which have major accumulations of donated rugs and kilims. These are not for sale but nonetheless offer fascinating studies of past weaving and spiritual offerings.
Konya is also a major center for both repair and for new production carpets made from hand-spun, vegetable-dyed wool. The repair here is fabulous, and dealers from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir send their rugs here to be made whole again. I am sorry to say that in the last few years the cost of repair has gone up dramatically. Ah well.
The Konya vegetable-dyed carpets and kilims are the best in Turkey today. This is mostly the result of "collector" dealers finding fewer and fewer worthy pieces to offer to their customers, and then deciding to make them. They do it right, using only the best hand spun sheep's wool and mohair and only the deepest saturation of natural dyes. It does make a difference, and certainly will make a difference in 50 to 100 years. The designs vary with the manufacturer. I have seen beautiful designs and do recommend your inspection.
In fact, we are thinking about adding a line of the best new carpets to our stock. This is a major departure for us, and it is only due to the dramatic beauty of these carpets I have seen in Konya.
This late January I plan on making my 65th trip along the silk route: I hope to visit Konya, Oushak and Alanya. There is also a certain pressure for me to return to Peshawar, in northeast Pakistan. I'll keep you posted.
To comment on this article, you may e-mail Saul Barodofsky, or e-mail Steve Price.