There are three essential items in every Turkish home: beyaz peynir (feta cheese) in the fridge, tea brewing in the kitchen, and carpets adorning the floors. What’s crucial about these items, especially the carpet, is where you buy them to ensure the best quality. A tourist may find it an overwhelming experience to buy a carpet. You’ll need to know where to go, what to look for, what to expect, and the art of bargaining. It’s not a task to tackle on your own. And that’s where we come in.

We’ve put together a guide for buying Turkish carpets in Istanbul, including all you need to know from the history of carpet-making to the things to ask when purchasing a carpet.

A Short Introduction To Turkish Carpets

The oldest kilim (flat-woven carpet) is thought to have emerged in Çatalhöyük in 7000 BC. Knotted rugs, however, are believed to have been introduced by nomadic Turks sometime during the 8th and 9th centuries, and to have made their way to Anatolia during the 12th century. Carpets were created for warmth and served as valuable furniture within the homes of nomadic Turks.

These famous Turkish carpets were the handiwork of Anatolian women. Between the 12th and 19th centuries, village women weaved carpets for their own use. These carpets served as a form of self-expression, in which women reflected upon their sorrows and joys through their choice of colors, patterns, and motifs. Working with their bare hands, these women used only high-quality natural materials like wool and silk, reflecting the daily life of the period with regional motifs that came to life through their creativity.

Around the 19th century, when Turkish carpets were introduced in Europe, the production of carpets somewhat changed with the opening of companies that catered to customers’ needs and market demands. This transformed carpet-making from an art form to a more commercialized enterprise. In fact, the carpet factory in Hereke, where famous Hereke carpets are made, was opened during this period to produce carpets for Ottoman palaces. Even though traditional carpet-weaving is an art that is fading due to urbanization, there are still village women weaving carpets today.

What You'll Find in Stores

Most Turkish carpets utilize the Turkish knot, also known as Gördes knot, which is a symmetrical knot that creates a very strong and durable carpet. As you walk around different carpet shops, you’ll be spoilt for choice as you come across carpets with traditional designs, as well as patchwork and contemporary pieces.
The salesmen at established shops are knowledgeable and not necessarily pushy. So even if you don’t know much about carpets, you can feel comfortable asking them for help and direction.
The experience of buying a Turkish carpet involves a lot more than picking and choosing your favorite among hundreds of rugs in dozens of carpet stores. It brings with it many cups of tea, deep conversations with carpet sellers, and of course, some bargaining.

Questions To Ask When Buying A Carpet:
Is it handmade? Handmade rugs are more intricate and of better quality, and thus higher in price.
In which city and around what time was it made? This will affect the price. The older the rug, the higher the price.
What kind of material is used? Wool and silk are highly preferred.
What do the motifs mean? Traditional Turkish carpets tell the story of the woman who weaved it. This may be about her family, or a joyful or sorrowful event that took place in her life.
How do I care for the carpet? Different materials may require different methods of care, so make sure to ask this before leaving the store.
Do you cover shipping costs? With the current luggage restrictions, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to take a carpet on the plane with you. Many reputable stores offer shipping services and cover the costs. Make sure you know how shipping will be handled before you buy.

Things That May Go Through Your Mind When Buying A Carpet:

Will the colors fade? Naturally dyed carpets will fade less and more beautifully than ones with chemical dyes. High-quality Turkish carpets almost always feature natural dyes. But be careful about where you place your carpet in the house, because overexposure to sunlight will cause the colors to fade more rapidly.
What should I expect to spend? This really depends on the size, the age, the material, whether it’s made with natural dyes, and also how intricate the carpet is. The more knots per square meter, the more expensive. The price could start at $150 and go all the way up to thousands of dollars.

Should I bargain? Yes, always, but in a humorous and respectful fashion.
Is it going to look good in my living room? This is really important. Think about where you may put the carpet, what kind of furniture you have, the color scheme of the room, and make a decision based on all these factors.