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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

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ICOC XI: April 2007, Istanbul

by Patrick Weiler

Part 4: Conference Tours
ICOC XI in Istanbul was preceded by several tours of Turkey with carpets as the general theme, including one of Central Turkey, which I went on. Similar tours were offered for post-ICOC participants, including a Western Turkey tour that included the Dobag weaving factory, a SE Turkey tour from Diyarbakir to Aydin and an Eastern Turkey tour to the mostly Kurdish weaving areas.

I went on the Central Turkey tour and we visited Vakif museums in Ankara, Tokat and Konya. Konya is the home of the Mevlevi Rumi Dervish mausoleum.

“The whirling dance that is proverbially associated with dervishes, is the practice of the Mevlevi Order in Turkey, and is just one of the physical methods used to try to reach religious ecstasy (majdhb, fana). The name "Mevlevi" comes from Rumi, a poet, whose shrine is in Turkey and who was a Dervish himself. This practice, though not intended as entertainment, has become a tourist attraction in Turkey.” (9)

We had an opportunity to attend a Dervish ceremony:

2007 is the 800th anniversary of the birth of Rumi. Plan to attend the festivities!

We visited a Konya felt-making shop where they make felt rugs. The girls on the right are making Dervish hats, while the owner and his assistant are rolling a felt rug:

And here you can see me Rumi-nating:

The hat is not quite large enough for me, though. It was made for a diminutive Dervish.

Here are a few of the rugs we saw at the Vakif museums on our tour:

A beat-up, road-weary rug finding its way into Turkey nowadays will often find itself pampered like Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man when they end up in the City of Oz. Some of the “fixing up” of rugs in Turkey is more than just a shampoo and trim. There are some rugs on the market today that have had a considerable amount of “repair”, almost to the point of being new. Buyer Beware! And many of the current rug dealers began their careers repairing them. Often you will see at least one and sometimes several workers in a rug shop back room repairing older pieces. Some companies have specialized repair facilities, with up to a dozen or more repairers, all sitting with their backs to a wall, knees up with a rug at hand, sewing, chatting and sipping a little tea. And the smell of smoke seems to permeate the air everywhere. In Konya, on a pre-conference tour, we were particularly affected by the overwhelming evening smoke from coal-fired stoves used by apparently every household in the city. I was informed that Istanbul outlawed coal fires some time ago.

And the making of rugs has continued apace throughout Turkey, with Turkish companies manufacturing everything from their traditional regional weavings to reproductions of rugs from Iran and the Caucasus. Some of which have been made from old wool and “processed” to appear much older:

These do not enter the market as antiques, but may be sold later as very old pieces. Here is one that has not been “treated” yet. It was made from old wool.

This one has had the treatment:

And this one is in process:

Here are some that have been treated to the aging process. They are made from old wool, wetted down and spread on the road for traffic to drive over them:

Here is our Central Turkey rug tour group in the factory that makes the new "old" rugs and those on the roadway in the preceding photographs.

We visited the Cappadocia region and Goreme, where caves, dwellings and churches were carved out of the bizarre volcanic geological formations:

We did not visit any local rug shops, though. On our way through central Turkey we encountered a shepherd and his grandfather. He works in Germany during tourist season and returns to help with the sheep in the winter:

They used to bring the wool to market in the old days, but it is not worth as much now, so they wait for a merchant to come and buy it from them once a year. There are supposedly 50 million sheep in Turkey, and nearly 80 million people. And I think we ate a lot of those sheep. Turkey is a land where the 19th century lives side-by-side with the 21st. With horse-drawn carts ambling along the highway with new Mercedes whizzing past. With shepherds on donkeys and internet cafes. And old-time rug stores – with web sites and e-mail.

Finally, another rug from the Vakiflar:

And a sign from the Grand Bazaar:

As Steve Price has said, Turkey is an enchanting destination and a place one could return to again and again. Even if the ICOC was not on the itinerary.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

2. http://www.tylersterritory.com/travel/europe/turkey/istanbul/map_istanbul.html

3. http://www.yourdictionary.com

4. http://www.natashascafe.com/html/artnartfact.html

5. http://www.bodrum4u.com/English/this&that/index.htm#Boncuk

6. Nazar Boncuk, is the Little Magic Stone that protects one from the *Evil Eye* This is a typical item, a speciality of this region you should take home as a souvenir, it's called the Boncuk, the Little Magic Stone that protects one from the *Evil Eye* (pronounced 'bon-dschuk'), you will see this blue glass piece everywhere here in this area. But what is behind this superstition? In a shortened version we will try to explain.

Once upon a time (yes, it starts like in a fairy tale) there was a rock by the sea which, even with the force of a hundred men and a lot of dynamite, couldn't be moved or cracked. And there was also a man in this town by the sea, who was known to carry the evil eye (Nazar). After much effort and endeavor, the town people brought the man to the rock, and the man, upon looking at the rock said, "My! What a big rock this is." The instant he said this, there was a rip and roar and crack and instantly the immense and impossible rock was found to be cracked in two.

The force of the evil eye (or Nazar) is a widely accepted and feared random element in Turkish daily life. The word *Nazar* denotes seeing or looking and is often used in literally translated phrases such as "Nazar touched her", in reference to a young woman, for example, who mysteriously goes blind.

Another typical scenario. A woman gives birth to a healthy child with pink cheeks, all the neighbors come and see the baby. They shower the baby with compliments, commentating especially on how healthy and chubby the baby is. After getting so much attention weeks later the baby is found dead in his crib. No explanation can be found for the death. It is ascribed to Nazar. Compliments made to a specific body part can result in Nazar. Thats why nearly every Turkish mother fixes with a safety pin a small Boncuk on the childs clothes. Once a Boncuk is found cracked, it means it has done his job and immediately a new one has to replace it.

7. http://www.guideistanbul.net/dolmabahce.htm

8. From, Oriental Carpets, A Complete Guide, by Eiland and Eiland

9. http://www.pbase.com/dosseman/turkveislameserleri

10. http://krauss.ws/travel/t/t3/indext3.htm

11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dervish

12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalal_ad-Din_Muhammad_Rumi

13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Bazaar,_Istanbul

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