As of May 2021, I am migrating most of my travel journals to Daveno Travels where I am reissuing them as Director’s Cuts, with full text and previously unpublished photos. This is an excerpt from my first trip to Istanbul in 2011.
I’m seated for breakfast at the Captain’s Table, and am joined by a guest from Australia who is also leaving today. Baha offers to take us to the bazaar to buy suzani (the embroidered textiles that fill his hotel). I don’t think I can cram anything more into my suitcases but the offer is more than the Australian and I can resist.
We arrive at Baha’s favorite textile vendor and are offered tea and seats. We make our selections and are each gifted with a pillow cover. I smile when I notice that the embroidery on mine is incomplete. Baha notices, and pantomimes “needle and thread,” suggesting that I could finish the embroidery myself.
I am also gifted with a black silk ikat headscarf (shown at right, with a wool shawl I bought at the Topkapi Palace. Sadly, I lost both of these pieces at an event in North Seattle in 2019.)
I photograph a framed goldworked section of an Ottoman robe that is leaning against a wall behind a pile of other things.
The Australian goes to find some friends, and Baha returns the hotel. I locate the Ibrahim Pasa Palace, a building that dates back to the Ottoman period which houses the Islamic Art and Ethnology Museum. It’s a treasure trove that would make my friends Sunjan and Khalja want to move here. A nomads tent, called a kara cadir in Turkish, woven from black goat hair with center pole supports, much like a Bedouin tent.
There were Anatolian kilims here that were woven in one piece, a rare find as they are traditionally woven in two or three sections and then stitched together. Below at left is the style of carpet I was looking at in the shop on my first day in Istanbul (this one from the Caucasus, Central Anatolia-Konya, 18th – early 19th century). I am told that the more borders the carpet has, the higher the value. The $48,000 carpet I was being shown had 5 borders (in addition to it being 90 years old and dyed with cochineal, indigo and saffron). At center – a Lotto style carpet, 13-14th century, Sultan Alaadin Keybubat Mosque in Konya, with a detail shot of that carpet shown at right.
A loom with all of the weaver’s tools laid out…
Some clothing and home furnishings, including a reproduction of the interior of an 1800’s Ottoman home. This pair of chopines for hamimi (Turkish bath) also date from the late Ottoman era. Mother of pearl inlay on wood, straps appear to be appliqued and beaded textile. Sorry I didn’t take a closer look to see if it that strap was a felt or woven piece…
After dinner, Baha and I catch the tram across the Galata Bridge and to the Beyoglu District. I point out buildings with facades that look like the ones I saw in Genoa. Baha shows me his favorite church. We end up at the Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage) where we order drinks and listen to musicians as they roam from one table to the next, one of which is playing something that looks like a hammer dulcimer.
We hail a cab back to the Sultanahmet, just after midnight. My shuttle is due at 3:30 AM, and since I am the last guest in his hotel, we sit and talk in the dining room. We talk about my Facebook albums, and the route my plane would take on its return to Seattle, and if there are sharks in Puget Sound. Cars, and sports, and music. Whatever small talk our tired brains could manage.
The shuttle arrives. Baha loads my book-heavy luggage into the van. He gives me a warm European-style send-off and promise to keep in touch. It has been a remarkable trip, and I will never, ever forget this place…