An experience that’s hard to avoid in Turkey is a visit to a carpet shop. In heavily touristed areas the hustlers descend upon foreigners and seldom let go until the tourists are rounded up and brought to the shop. On our gulet cruise we were invited into a home, not by a hustler but by our ship’s captain, to see how carpets are woven and to get a glimpse into the lives of the people who produce them.
Carpet merchants from the cities know that the women of Bozalan make some of Turkey’s finest carpets, and they come regularly to buy finished carpets or place orders. The labor and skill involved in weaving these carpets staggers the imagination.
The women are so skilled at a young age, having been weaving since their teens, that they produce the intricate designs the carpets are known for without using a pattern: they create them from memory. All the wool is hand-dyed, the looms hand-operated. The tasks to weave a large carpet require the labor of four people ten hours a day for a month, with the final product selling for about 2,000 Turkish lire, or roughly $1,667.
At that rate I found myself appropriately concerned about spilling food when we were invited to sit on cushions on these exquisite carpets to feast on gözleme (traditional Turkish flatbread stuffed with cheese or greens or potatoes), olives, eggplant, ayran (a traditional Turkish yogurt drink), salad of greens, tomatoes and cucumbers, and a focaccia-like moist bread that was so delicious I can still taste it. Our plates were covered in sauces and oils, the serving dishes unavoidably showing drips down their sides as we ate. How could we keep stains off these exquisite carpets? But only we seemed to be concerned. Adnan Görgün and his wife Gülnaz and daughters paid no heed to such matters, extending hospitality without a second thought. And somehow we avoided making a mess as we relaxed in their open-air living room beneath an arbor covered with leafy vines overlooking the village and the hills that tumbled to the sapphire sea sparkling in the distance.
Sated, we thanked them, paid them for our lunch, and made our way down the mountain. There was never a thought of buying or selling carpets, just a desire to show us what their lives were like, how carpets were made, how hospitality is granted.