When you think of Turkey, you might think of gorgeous weather, Turkish delight, or beach escapes. But you’d be forgiven for overlooking the Turkish carpet trade.
If you’ve ever been to Egypt, you might be familiar with the dreaded stop on the tour at the carpet shop. From experience, this usually results in stopping mid-tour to a carpet manufacturers, going inside, and then being locked in, in the hope that locking you in will mean you will buy a carpet. Once, someone even said they wouldn’t let us out until we paid.
Totally above board, guys. Apparently.
I’ve been to Turkey a number of times, enough to lose count, and tours I’ve been on have never stopped at a carpet factory. When booking tours this year, every tour guide ensured me there would be no stop at a carpet shop. Because I don’t want the hassle, do I?
Most told the truth.
Whilst on one tour, my tour guide listed what I would be doing. It all sounded great. I would see historic Turkey, natural wonder Turkey, and the tour would start with…a carpet shop.
I feel guilty in saying that I rolled my eyes at this, and refused to go in as our tour bus drove there. However, when I arrived to the carpet shop in Muğla, Turkey, I was greeted by a polite and joyful man, who talked to us about carpet making in Turkey.
I was led in to a show room, of sorts. Here, the materials used for carpets – dyed with vegetables – are cotton, wool, wool and cotton blend, and sometimes silk. These were on display to me, in balls of yarn. There was also a woman demonstrating how the carpets are made.
Carpets are double knotted, instead of single. This is so the carpet has durability.
Whilst there, I was told that the women working at the shop are paid a wage of £450. In Turkey, that is just over 3,000 lira. A well paid job, but a career that seems to be dying out. At least by the words of my guide.
The weaving of Turkish rugs and carpets has been a tradition for centuries. Young women are the ones to take up the role. According to our guide, since the age of technology, it has become harder to get young women interested in crafting rugs and carpets, and the trade has suffered because of it.
Now, the Turkish government sponsor people to enrol in their weaving courses. Most girls are able to learn on the job, and work in a place where the sales are direct.
The sale from the carpets is split between the company, and the woman who has weaved the carpet. Some carpets can take a few months, to two years to complete.
It has become clear that now, more than ever, the Turkish carpet trade relies on tour buses. The carpet shop I went to was in Seydiler, off the beaten track, and in a place where tourists only drive through, yet never stay. There are no hotels nearby. No all inclusive resorts. Without the tours, who knows how these carpets and the workers would be seen?
My visit to Seydiler’s carpet shop was accommodating. Our group were taken to the back rooms, where the finished products were, and given a sales pitch, accompanied by Apple Tea. When I didn’t buy, there was no pushing.
Prices for Turkish carpets range from a couple of hundred pounds, to a couple of thousands. You’re not just paying for the rug; you’re paying for the time spent on crafting something so intricately made. You’re paying for someone’s time.
But, if you did want to buy, be assured that shipping costs and delivery back home can be included.
If you’re in Turkey, and you hear the words ‘carpet shop on your tour’, embrace it. Don’t be like me and assume the worst. You might just take something from it, even if it’s not a rug!