By Dora Ohrenstein

[Note: For better images, click on the top photo, then use the Next arrow to scroll through.]

If you think it’s easy to leave Istanbul without buying a rug, you are underestimating the rug sellers of Istanbul, for whom retail sales is a high art.

Every third step you take when walking Istanbul’s many street, and I mean that literally, is accompanied by a call out, generally one of these three: 1) Hey Lady! 2) Where are you from? 3) How can I help you spend your money? The last is very popular. This does get irritating, and you can’t get out of the exchange safely. If you ignore the man calling, you may be met with an insult. If you respond, it’s an invitation to continue. Next thing you know, you’re sitting in a rug store.

There are several approaches: once or twice I experienced the haughty one, where you are made to feel that merely sitting with the rugs is a great privilege. Most of the time the men are very warm and friendly, asking you how they can help you enjoy your time in Istanbul and immediately presenting two chairs and two teas. Little by little they draw you out and find a way of introducing the idea that purchasing a rug, especially one of these beauties in their shop, is an excellent opportunity you can’t miss. You can get one at almost any price — how much would you like to spend? It doesn’t matter if the rug is expensive or not, all that matters is that you love it. This is the foreplay.

Next, they start showing you the most beautiful and expensive rugs , which you do love but can only stare at with longing. Soon that longing is brought to bear on an item that’s perhaps closer to your price range. Rug after rug is thrown open on the floor for your approval. Do you like it? You don’t have cash? No problem, there’s always credit!

More tea is served and now you are really yearning to make a rug purchase. The colors, the designs, the texture and warmth. . . all beckon to your acquisitive appetites. Thank goodness I have absolutely no space for a rug in my apartment and when I had one it was way too good at sucking in New York City dirt.

So yes, I did get out of Istanbul without buying a rug, but many other fabulous Turkish goods ended up in my suitcase.

On this page you can see some of the marvelous rugs I didn’t buy, and some of the booty I did. Take a scroll after double clicking the top image to enlarge it.








Old kilim rugs are cut up and recycled into new patchwork rugs

Two bracelets

Antique crochet purses

Crochet oya neck piece

Hand-dyed silk scarf with oya edging


Impossible to find reference on Turkish socks, which I stumbled upon in a used book store in Istanbul!

From the same shop, a book written by Sabiha Tansug, a well-known textile collector, whom I met on this trip.

Definitive calatogues on Oya, Volumes I and II