Many tourists visiting Istanbul want to leave the city with a good memory. Handmade Turkish rugs have a very important place in the history of Istanbul and are ideal as souvenirs. However, there are some things to know before buying Turkish rugs in Istanbul.
In order to choose the right Turkish rugs in Istanbul, it is necessary to have a general knowledge of the history of carpets. Because in Turkish history, carpets were used for different purposes at different times. For this reason, carpets belonging to different periods have different motifs.
For example, carpets belonging to the period when Turks lived as nomads in the Central Asian steppes have simpler motifs and are colorful. If you are looking for such a carpet, you can look at the “Nomadic Turkish rugs”.
On the other hand, the carpets produced during the Ottoman Empire period have very sophisticated patterns. Inspired by Egyptian and Iranian art on the borders of the empire, Ottoman carpets blended several different cultures.
Although the Ottoman carpet represented the power of the empire with its medallion emblems, it still contained the old culture. For this reason, there are references to various folk tales and traditions in every detail on these carpets. If you are looking for such a carpet, you can look at “Classic Turkish rugs”.
Today, Turkish rugs are best represented in Istanbul. Although the carpet workshops are mainly in Anatolia, it is possible to come across all kinds of Turkish carpets here thanks to the big carpet stores in Istanbul.
History of Turkish Rugs
The history of Turkish rugs goes back thousands of years. The oldest carpet found during archaeological excavations is dated to the 3rd century BC and is thought to have a connection with Turkish culture.
This carpet, known as the Pazyryk Carpet, is now exhibited in the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. The patterns on the carpet reflect the life style of the Turks in Central Asia.
Our knowledge of Turkish carpets became more evident after the 13th century. Turks had settled in Anatolia during this period and they had a state called Sultanate of Rum.
Carpets in the Seljuk (Sultanate of Rum) period included various flower motifs and animal figures. These carpets were produced in cities such as Usak (Oushak), Kayseri (Caesarea) and Konya (Iconium).
These three cities later became the capitals of Turkish carpet art. Some of the most precious Turkish carpets today are named after these cities. Some of the carpets from the Seljuk period are now exhibited at the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul.
The fall of the Seljuks was followed by the rise of the Ottomans. During this transition period, Turkish carpets also began to gain an imperial identity. In the 16th century, the heyday of the empire, Turkish carpets adorned the palaces not only in Istanbul but also in Europe.
Turkish Carpets in Renaissance Art
The rise of Turkish carpets also attracted the attention of Renaissance painters in Europe. Thus, the Turkish carpets in the palaces, churches and houses they painted also became the background for their world-famous paintings.
The most famous painters who included Turkish carpets in their paintings during this period were Hans Holbein, Lorenzo Lotto and Hans Memling. Today, carpets with certain motifs are still named after them.
1. Holbein Carpet
The Holbein Carpet is a good example of Anatolian rugs. It contains geometric shapes from the early periods when Turks migrated from Asia to Anatolia.
2. Lotto Carpet
The Lotto Carpet has more sophisticated lines than other carpets adorning Renaissance paintings. It represents the transition period between Classical Turkish Carpets with more complex motifs and early Nomadic Carpets.
3. Memling Carpet
The Memling Carpet is a good example of early Turkish carpets with its motifs inspired by nature. There are geometric shapes and tree branches on the carpet, which are often seen in Nomadic carpets.
Types of Turkish Rugs
There are basically two types of Turkish carpets. The first is the nomadic carpets representing the early period carpets. The second is the classical carpets representing the imperial period.
1. Nomadic Turkish Carpets
Nomadic Turkish Carpets represent a long period from the nomadic life of the Turks in Central Asia to the sedentary life in Anatolia. Carpets produced in this transition period reflect daily life.
Nomadic carpets have flowers and animals that represent nature, as well as some motifs that represent traditions. Geometric patterns are also common in these carpets, which have sharp colors.
2. Classic Turkish Carpets
Classical Turkish carpets represent the peak of the imperial period. In this period, when the Ottoman Empire built great palaces, mosques and mausoleums, the carpet became one of the main decoration items.
Today, the two most beautiful souvenirs to buy in Istanbul are carpets and tiles. Turkish carpets and tiles experienced their most productive period in the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire was at its height.
In addition to the medallion symbolizing the empire, there were tree branches, flowers (especially tulips) and tree leaves in the classical period Turkish carpets. Classical carpets also had darker colors than nomadic carpets.
The most beautiful examples of classical period Turkish carpets can be seen in Topkapi Palace. You can also visit the Dolmabahce Palace to see how classical Turkish carpets have changed over time and how the magnificent “Hereke Carpet” has emerged.
Buying Turkish Rugs in Istanbul
There is a wide variety of carpets in Istanbul today and buying Turkish rugs in Istanbul is a sensitive issue. Most major carpet stores are run by collectors and have carpets from all eras. In this way, it is possible to trace the history of Turkish carpets in Istanbul.
Most of the shops selling Turkish carpets in Istanbul are located in and around Sultanahmet. There are many carpet shops, especially in and around the Grand Bazaar. In order to find the best carpet shops in Istanbul, you need to do some research.
One of the reasons I wrote this article was the lack of online resources about Turkish carpets. Although there are plenty of books written by experts in this field, it is a little difficult to find a digital resource that is constantly updated.
If you want to buy a beautiful Turkish rug when you visit Istanbul, you can ask for advice to benefit from our expertise. If you describe what you are looking for in a few sentences, we can recommend you the right carpet store. You can use the CONTACT US page to write to us.
Finally, before buying Turkish rugs in Istanbul, I recommend you to visit two museums to have the necessary preliminary information. One of them is the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum next to the Blue Mosque, and the other is the Carpet Museum, which is adjacent to Hagia Sophia.
Written by Serhat Engul