While locum, the sweet
jelly-textured confection may be officially known as Turkish Delight, it is the
bold pulsating patterns of the Turkish carpet that truly dazzles and delights
the shopper in Turkey.  While reflecting the culture of its people,
the attractive colors and designs of the Turkish carpet also convey artistic
messages to people of other countries.


The official name for the Turkish carpet is
the Anatolian carpet (from Anatolia—one of the main carpet-producing regions in
Turkey), as opposed to the Persian, Caucasian, and Afghan
carpets.  Besides the traditional hand-knotted carpets, using methods
developed for over 2000 years, there are the lightweight kilims (woven
on a loom like tapestry), cicims (hand-embroidered carpets,
and rugs made out of Angora goat hair.

Families, tribes, and even whole villages work
together as a unit and share the knowledge of their skills and
expertise.  Their methods and raw materials produce carpets that
reflect the region in which they are woven and the anonymous artists of the
region closely guard their secret techniques and designs. No picture taking and
no visitors are allowed in these Turkish inner sanctums. 

The making of knotted carpets (used by locals
not only as floor coverings but as tent screens, paintings, wall hangings,
prayer rugs, sofa and cradle covers) was introduced by nomadic Turkish tribes
and craftsmen.  The hard-wearing double-knot techniques, known as the
Turkish or Gordes knot is what sets these carpets aside from
the Persian or Senneh (single) knot techniques used in Iran,
Afghanistan, Russia, and China.


Knotted carpets are
woven on a loom consisting of horizontal bars on which the warp and weft
threads are stretched.  Onto these threads the pile knots are tied
according to a pattern.  The Turkish (Gordes) knot is wrapped
around two warps and the Persian (Senneh) knot around a single
warp.  Once the pile knots are tied according to the pattern, they
are pressed together with a comb-like kirkit. Then the thread ends,
which make up the pile, are clipped off with a regulated scissors, giving a
velvet-like surface.

Knotting is an
extremely difficult job. The carpet weaver must have thin, agile fingers and
eagle eyes.  That is why the weavers are usually girls between the
ages of 12 and 18.

The Gordes knot makes the
carpet stronger, firmer, and more durable while the Senneh knot
allows the weaving of more varied patterns.  However, once a carpet
is made, it is difficult to determine the knotting system. 


The quality of the carpet is increased as the
number of tight knots per square centimeter increases.  Some woolen
rugs have about 30 knots to a square centimeter, while a silk rug can have as
many as 200 knots per square centimeter.

The colors used to dye the threads for the
carpets, are characteristic of the region where the carpet is
made.  Although chemical dyes are used today, many villages still use
the natural vegetable dyes.  Some of these villages have their
own boyalik (grazing land) on which plants, used for producing
dyes, are grown.

Formulas for producing dyes have been passed
down from generation to generation allowing the traditional colors of Turkish
carpets to survive.  The dominant color of red expresses wealth, joy,
and happiness.  Green is symbolic of heaven; blue of nobility; yellow
keeps evil away, and black symbolizes purification from worries.

The material used in a Turkish carpet may be
wool, pure silk, floss silk, or cotton, with sheep’s wool being the most
commonly used.  Cotton is used in the weaving of a base (warp and
weft) for the carpet and then wool is knotted on to this to form a
pile.  Carpets made with cotton and wool are as hardwearing and
attractive as other carpets.


Floss silk, which is a silk byproduct, is used
only in carpets manufactured in the Kayseri region.  Floss silk makes
up the pile knots of the carpet’s base system.  It is as strong as
other materials and is also easily dyed, making a wide range of colors possible.

Pure silk carpets, from cocoon silk produced
in the vicinity of Bursa, are works of art.  The pure silk carpets
from the region of Hereke are considered matchless.  Those from Kayseri
follow closely behind.

Hereke is a small charming town approximately
40-miles from Istanbul.  Situated at the foot of an historic medieval
castle, Hereke was chosen by the Ottoman sultans as a center of silk production
in 1840.  In time, production of hand-made silk carpets has spread to
villages in the vicinity of Hereke.

Today, classical Hereke carpets, with their
motifs of flowers, birds, deer, and mihraps (praying niches),
are made in a number of regions with the pure silk of Bursa.  However,
only the genuine Herekes have the inscription “Hereke” woven into one of the


The joy, sorrow, patience and skill, of the
craftsman are reflected in a properly made Hereke. Since the production of a
silk carpet with a high double-knot density compels the dimensions to be
limited, large Hereke carpets are quite rare.  Sizes typically range
from that of a small painting to those of a prayer rug.

When purchasing a Turkish carpet, it is a good
idea to keep in mind the old shopping ethic: caveat emptor (buyer
beware).  And, although bargaining is de rigueur in
Turkey, always remember that you can’t beat a man at his own game. 

The three tips that I can offer you are:
Absolutely adore what you are going to purchase; don’t think you can “steal” it
from the dealer; and, deal with a trustworthy merchant.  As for the
latter, aye there’s the rub.  How does one find such a person in a
country known for shrewd businessmen who know they will never see you again?



First, you must go with your gut and with the
with the company’s reputation.  Do you know anyone who bought from
them?  Were they satisfied after their carpet was appraised at
home?  Do they have representation in another country or in
America?  If you are on a cruise ship, inquire among the staff to see
if they have any recommendations and always pay for your purchase with a credit

And, one final tip.  Once you take
your purchase home, and the bill is paid, forget about what kind of deal you
got.  Just enjoy your carpet and the memories of the trip that it

award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY
in Mariemont, Ohio.