Tales of the Turkish Rug

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When we left for Turkey, friends told us, “If you go to Turkey, you’ll come home with a rug!”

We begged to differ. (In fact, knowing that he was *supposed* to buy a rug made Clyde all the more determined *not* to buy one!) So, when a guide took us to a glitzy, overpriced carpet shop practicing high-pressure tactics, we stuck to our guns. “No,” we said, “despite having watched the show and guzzled the apple tea, we are not going to buy a rug.”

We didn’t buy a rug at the second shop. Or the third. Or the fourth. And that’s quite an achievement, given that Turkish rug dealers practically drag you in the door “just to look at one or two pieces” as you stroll past their store. (Once inside, they yank out rug after rug after rug, littering the floor with them, going to an enormous amount of effort, to make you feel guilty for not buying.)

On our last night in Istanbul, we went for dinner at the excellent Cafe Rumist. Despite the cold, we took a seat on the front porch (which, thanks to overhead heaters, was, indeed, “warm as a Turkish bath,” as one of the waiters had said). Shortly after we arrived, Clyde’s dad disappeared to visit the restrooms, and he came back with a remarkable story: upstairs, he claimed, was an incredible collection of rugs … and on the wall of the restaurant, he said, was one of the most beautiful rugs he had ever seen.

He was right on both counts. Upstairs, the owner of Cafe Rumist — Ibrahim, who looks a bit like the Turkish George Clooney — maintains his family business: exporting and selling exquisite antique rugs.

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Unlike other shops in the Sultanahmet, Ibrahim doesn’t practice high pressure sales tactics at all. Instead, he lets the rugs themselves lure you in.

So we found ourselves upstairs, given all the time we wanted to browse the rugs at our own pace. Ibrahim was friendly and hospitable, but he didn’t hover; in fact, he often left us alone to look the rugs over and talk among ourselves. When certain pieces appealed to us but were too big or too small or not quite the right color, he offered (and that verb is important, by the way — he *offered*, leaving the decision up to us) to pull additional rugs from his nearby warehouse for us to review.

Clyde’s dad did, indeed, find one or two rugs in Ibrahim’s upstairs collection he liked … but he loved, loved, loved that luminous rug displayed on the wall down in the Cafe Rumist dining room: a handmade antique, circa 1920, featuring bold reds, liquid blues, and luminous golds. You can see it here in a TripAdvisor.com photo taken by a previous visitor to the restaurant:

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Ibrahim took the rug down, brought it upstairs, and displayed it for us. And there was no question in our minds at all: this was the most beautiful rug in the place. The others were exquisite, but this one was alive, somehow, with colors that shifted as you turned your head from side to side and a pattern that seemed to dance.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong size for the space at Clyde’s Dad’s house.

Fortunately, it was the perfect size for a space in ours.

I almost jumped out of my skin when Clyde turned to me and said, “How do you think it would look in our living room?”

Especially given our resolve *not* to buy a rug at all, I was stunned — but delighted — by his question. We hemmed and hawed a bit, talked things over … and, finally, decided this piece was just to beautiful to leave behind.

Ibrahim packed it up (along with another for Clyde’s Dad), shipped it UPS, and it arrived here Thursday. After completing our de-Christmasing, we rolled up the faithful (but machine-made) rug we’ve used for ages … and replaced it with our purchase from Cafe Rumist:

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It’s just perfect for the space … perfect for our tastes … and looks and feels amazing underfoot.

If you’re headed to Istanbul, do yourself a favor: have dinner with Ibrahim at Cafe Rumist … and treat yourself to the Sultanhamet’s best rug shopping experience upstairs at Ibrahim’s studio.

You just can’t go to Turkey, you know, without coming home with a rug.

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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  • I have just seen the rug picture. It does look great, just perfect. The people on the rug look great since they know how to pose.

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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