Those who visit the colorful historical bazaars of Istanbul encounter beautiful Turkish rugs. Reflecting a centuries-old culture, Turkish carpets are adorned with beautiful motifs.
Each of these motifs has a meaning and they represent a certain period, region and lifestyle. Although it is difficult to distinguish from each other at first glance, the stories behind the carpet motifs are quite interesting.
We usually use carpets in the parts of our house where we spend most of our time. For this reason, it is important to know the story behind a purchased carpet. When buying carpets, it is necessary to take its background into account in addition to the size, motifs and colors of the carpet.
In this article, I will share some useful information for those who want to buy carpets from Istanbul. Before answering the question of where to buy Turkish rugs in Istanbul, I will write about the history of carpets and carpet museums in Istanbul. Because my main purpose is to emphasize that carpet weaving is an art.
When you want to buy something related to art and put it in your home, you need to experience its atmosphere. When you buy a painting, you go to an art gallery and get inspired from there. When you buy a carpet, it is a great experience to visit the carpet related museums in Istanbul.
Moreover, you will not spend much effort for this. Because even visiting Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahce Palace, which are the most popular museums of Istanbul, will give you enough ideas. Of course, it would be better if you go to specific museums where you can see antique carpets such as Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum.
History of Turkish Rugs
The history of Turkish carpets dates back to the times when Turks lived a nomadic life in Central Asia. Carpet was a very useful item for people who lived in tents and moved constantly. When they laid the carpet on the floor after setting up the tent, they could comfortably step on the ground.
During this period, we see that the motifs engraved on Turkish carpets are inspired by nature. However, the imagination has shaped the art of those who process the rugs over time. That is why birds, eagle-headed lions, dragons and phoenix appear on the nomadic rugs. Of course, these are reflections of the Asian culture that the Turks lived in at that time.
1. The Oldest Carpet in the World
The oldest carpet in the world is Pazyryk carpet, dated to 400 BCE. It was found in Siberia during archaeological excavations conducted by Soviet archaeologist Rudenko. This carpet, made by the peoples of ancient Altai, has very beautiful motifs. The region where the carpet was founded is also the homeland of the Turks. Today, it is exhibited in the Hermitage Museum of Russia.
2. Turkish Anatolian Rugs
Most of the Asian Turks migrated to the west in the 11th century. Seljuk Turks, who chose the city of Isfahan in Iran as their capital, were neighbors to the Byzantine Empire. Battle of Manzikert, one of the important wars of the Middle Ages, opened a new era in the life of the Turks.
The Turks, who defeated the Byzantines, made Anatolia their homeland. The Seljuks, who were influenced by the cultures in Anatolia, created a cultural blend. It is possible to see the effects of this rich culture on Seljuk rugs. The Seljuks existed in and around Anatolia for several centuries. The oldest Turkish carpets exhibited in museums today remain from this period.
3. Turkish Rugs in Renaissance Painting
The late period of the Seljuks and the early period of the Ottomans is the peak period of Turkish carpets. During this period in the 14th and 15th centuries, Turkish carpets were exported to Europe. Venetians and Genoese, the skilled sailors of the Eastern Mediterranean, sold the carpets of Anatolia to Europe. It is possible to see the carpets exported during this period in various cathedrals, palaces and museums of Europe.
The motifs on the Turkish carpets were very popular in the west and this admiration showed itself in the works of art. Renaissance-era artists Hans Holbein, Hans Memling and Lorenzo Lotto used the carpets in the background of their paintings.
Hans Holbein Rugs
Hans Memling Rugs
Lorenzo Lotto Rugs
4. Ottoman Imperial Rugs
The evolution of the Ottoman Empire from a principality to the empire also caused a great change in the Turkish carpet art. The territory of the empire stretching all over the Middle East and Egypt attracted foreign artists to the capital.
Persian and Egyptian masters who came to Istanbul brought their art with them. Thus, Ottoman Imperial Rugs with more complex patterns appeared. Carpets with a medallion in the middle and floral motifs around began to decorate the palaces. Turkish Anatolian Rugs were used in mosques and tombs during this period.
Turkish Rugs in Istanbul Museums
Types of Turkish Rugs
Turkish rugs are basically divided into two categories. The first category is the early nomadic carpets decorated with geometrical motifs and nature depictions. The second category is the classical period Ottoman rugs with medallion emblems decorated with floral motifs.
Although carpets are basically two categories, they are often referred to by the name of the region or city in which they were produced. If you go to a carpet shop in Istanbul and I want to buy a nomad rug, they will show you carpets with geometric motifs. If you want to buy Ottoman-made carpets, the variety will increase and more complex motif carpets will come to you.
1. Geometric Pattern Carpets
The oldest known Turkish carpets are the 13th century Anatolian Seljuk carpets in the Alaeddin Mosque. The characteristic feature of the Seljuk period carpets are blue and red tones, some arabesque motifs and kufi writings. Kûfi is the depiction of Arabic letters with straight and angular lines. Kufi motifs are found on the edge of Seljukian carpets as pointed and arrow-like motifs.
One of the things that makes these carpets special is the weaving method unique to Turkish carpets called Gördes knot. As the Gordes Knot is a double knot weaving style, it gives the carpet more strength and durability than usual.
2. Classic Carpets
With the conquest of Iran’s Tabriz and Egypt’s Cairo by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, there was a great change in Turkish carpet motifs. Geometric patterns of Anatolian carpets were abandoned. With the influence of carpet masters from Egypt and Iran, Turkish carpets began to be decorated with more complex patterns.
The most distinctive feature of classical period carpets in the Ottoman Empire is the addition of medallion emblems that reflect the reign to the carpet patterns. The parts surrounding the medallion are decorated with floral motifs.
Classical period Turkish Carpets decorated European palaces for centuries. King Henry VIII of England bought hundreds of these carpets. These carpets are also known as Tudor Carpets today.
During the peak period of the Turkish carpet, there were dozens of carpet workshops in cities such as Konya (Iconium), Kayseri (Caesarea), Usak (Oushak) and Bergama (Pergamon). These cities, which have a history dating back to the ancient period, added an authentic feature to the carpets with their cosmopolitan cultures.
The most fascinating rugs of the classical period came out of Konya, Kayseri and Usak. The most expensive carpets you can find in a carpet store today are also known by the name of these cities.
Tudor Carpets in England
3. Hereke Rugs
In the information I have given you so far, I have divided the carpets into two categories. these were nomadic rugs with geometric patterns and classic rugs with medallions. however, there is a type of carpet that can be considered as an exception in this classification.
In the 1850s, Sultan Abdulmecid was about to leave the traditional Topkapi Palace and move to Dolmabahce Palace, which he built in the Bosphorus. He wanted the most beautiful carpets in the world to be produced for the new palace. To this end, large-scale carpet workshops were established in the city of Hereke.
Some of the most frequently woven carpets in the world were made for Dolmabahçe Palace. These 160 year old carpets still decorate the halls and rooms of Dolmabahce Palace. On this occasion, Hereke also becomes a brand in carpet making and takes its place among the regions known for the carpet we mentioned earlier.
Hereke Rugs in Dolmabahce Palace
Turkish Carpets Today
Unfortunately, the number of people who can weave carpets is decreasing because carpet weaving requires great care and patience. Production is shifting to India and China, where the labor force is cheaper, as the cost of carpet workmanship increases day by day.
Hereke and Usak (Oushak) carpets, which are the palace carpets of the classical period, are rare and expensive. It is much easier to find Anatolian carpets, which are woven from wool, with geometric patterns, and therefore are more economical. Buying the right carpet for its real price requires a certain amount of knowledge and expertise, such as buying jewelry.
Where to Buy Turkish Rugs in Istanbul
The historical monuments in Sultanahmet are very close to each other and can be visited on foot. Historical bazaars with carpet stores are also very close to these structures. There are many carpet shops not only inside but also around the Grand Bazaar.
Best Places to Buy Turkish Rugs in Istanbul
In the lines below you can find the carpet shops I recommend. These are shops located not in the historical bazaars of Istanbul, but in the vicinity. You can find positive references in international guide books and travel sites about these places, which are the best carpet shops of Istanbul.
1. Nakkas Oriental Rugs
Nakkas Carpet Store has one of the largest carpet collections in Istanbul. It is located in Sultanahmet, the center of Istanbul Old City. It is within walking distance to the Hippodrome, one of the most visited historical monuments in the Sultanahmet area.
Apart from the carpet, you can also buy Iznik Tiles at Nakkas Carpet Store. Above all, you can visit Nakkas only for The Museum inside it. Restoring a 1500-year-old Byzantine cistern and transforming it into an exhibition, Nakkas has created a digital exhibition depicting the chariot races in Hippodrome.
Nakilbent Caddesi, Number: 13
2. Punto Carpet
If you want to shop for carpets near the Grand Bazaar, you can choose Punto. Nuruosmaniye Gate, which is the 1st gate of Grand Bazaar, opens to the courtyard of a large mosque. This Ottoman mosque called Nuruosmaniye Mosque is an imperial mosque built in the 18th century.
When you take the Grand Bazaar behind you and cross the courtyard, you will go to Nuruosmaniye Street. In this street decorated with beautiful shops and cafes, there is a coffee shop called Kahve Dunyasi (Coffee World). When you enter the street adjacent to the Kahve Dunyasi, you can find Punto Carpet in just a few steps.
Punto is a shop recommended in many international travel guides about Istanbul. You can buy wool, cotton and silk Turkish rugs in Punto, which has a very wide collection of Turkish carpets and rugs.
Nurosmaniye Caddesi, Gazi Sinanpasa Sokak, Number: 17
How to Buy Turkish Rugs in Istanbul 2020