My sister Bridgette has been bugging out for a Turkish rug for a long time. Now that we’re finally in Turkey I decided this would be a perfect time to find out what all the fuss is about and see if I could buy her one. Turns out I can’t because they are WAY expensive. Well at least the real ones are.
I’ve been intimidated by most of the rug sellers in Turkey. You can see them eying you suspiciously and you know the minute you enter their shop crazy things are going to happen and you’ll be hassled until you buy something.
Because of this I have been putting off shopping for her rug. All that changed in Cappadocia because out of the trillion Turkish rug sellers there was one really nice guy who had an immense amount of passion for his craft. He was extremely friendly and offered to teach me about Turkish rugs and more importantly fill me in on why they are so expensive.
There are a couple factors that are the most important – the dyes used and the type of weave. Complicated weaves cost more because they take longer to make. Natural dyes cost more because they are natural and not made of chemicals. Sixty+ years ago almost all rugs were made of natural dyes. This means that when shopping for a Turkish rug you really want to shop for an old rug. The older the better. It’s also worth noting that if you spend several hundred dollars for a century old rug you more than likely aren’t going to use it as a rug – instead it becomes a wall hanging or a blanket to cover your couch.
I started wondering how someone would go about finding such old rugs and it basically came down to the fact that the rug seller acts as a middle man and goes out to estate sales and to homes of the elderly and offers to buy their rugs. They usually have the best rugs with more complicated weaves and natural dyes.
Unfortunately a lot of these rugs come with holes in them from lifetimes of use and I learned that it cost about 200 Euro to repair a small hole (about the size of a half-dollar) on an old Turkish rug. So you can see the cost going up and up and up.
I looked at a few more of the rugs and unfortunately all the rugs that I really liked were in the $500+ range and at that size were pretty small rugs. I couldn’t justify spending that much money on something so small. Then it dawned on me, the best way to buy a Turkish rug is to buy it yourself direct from the owner. But how? I don’t know any Turkish and I have no idea how I would go about getting my point across to anyone. Plus to get a really good deal, I’d have to be totally off the tourist path.
That’s when it dawned on me, the best way to buy a Turkish rug is to go WWOOF’ing in Turkey. Seems brilliant! You go and volunteer abroad on a farm where you get to learn about the culture and you get to know your hosts. Your hosts will almost always have family or know several people in the community. At some point you can tell your host you want to buy a Turkish rug and see if they will ask around for you. You can give your money directly to someone who needs it and in turn get a great deal on a real Turkish rug! I haven’t tried this yet but I’m thinking of giving it a go because it makes total sense and you get a great story about how you purchased your rug! Plus, a little bird told me that WWOOF’ing in Turkey is excellent for the wwoofers because the Turkish people are so accommodating that they never want their workers to do anything.
Apparently this is a real problem and they are trying to correct it so that the farmers can get the help they need without feeling bad. Everyone in Turkey has been so welcoming and lovely that it doesn’t surprise me that the WWOOF’ing hosts are over the top and friendly.
So now I have another reason to do volunteer work abroad! I can help out a local Turkish family and try to find a Turkish rug for my sister! To top it off, I can come back to Turkey which is a real bonus because I have already fallen in totally in love with this country.
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