The highlight of my Istanbul trip was... the carpet shop? [#56]

I'm just as surprised as you are.

The highlight of my Istanbul trip was... the carpet shop? [#56]

I never thought the highlight of my Istanbul trip would be the carpet shop.

I'm not a big carpet guy. When our Istanbul tour guide led us into the store, I was thinking "oh this is gonna be pretty lame." But the first surprise happened 1 minute into the tour, where the shop owner showed us this ~60-70 year-old lady who also happened to be crazy good at hand-weaving carpets.

It was seriously unreal — she could tie a double knot and push it down into the weaver machine thingy (idk how to describe it) in like 1 second. I have reasonably agile hands, but if I tried to do the same thing, I would probably work 10x slower than she did. Literally 10x slower: she was like a master weaver.

So then I thought "oh this is actually kinda cool." And the shop owner led us upstairs to the second surprise: the tapestries. Man these were so cool. One of them was a Revolutionary War tapestry that was about the same size as this random tapestry I found on Amazon:

I love the awkwardly photoshopped pots in the left corner. Ahh, classic Amazon.

But I guarantee this tapestry, which costs $11.99 on Amazon, is just weak sauce compared to the tapestries in the carpet store. If you looked closely, you could see every individual stitch (or knot? idk) in each tapestry. I can't even imagine the discipline it would take to make one of those tapestries. And they just had dozens of them on the walls.

So after we all admired the tapestries for a while, the store owner led us into a big room full of hundreds of carpets. I mean full — they were on the walls, piled up on the floor — they were everywhere. Then, we sat down near the edge of the room, not knowing what to expect.

At this point, it was 12:30pm, and I was getting pretty hungry. I was concerned that we wouldn't eat lunch for a while, because I had no idea how long the carpet exhibition would take. But then the store owner asked us for our choice of drink, and I was a bit relieved. At least I would have something to drink to tide me over until lunch.

Next, the store owner started showing us a varied assortment of carpets. Some of the designs didn't really appeal to me, but some were actually pretty cool. (That means a lot coming from a 17 year-old semi-cynical teenager.) He talked a lot about the dyes and materials they used to make the carpets, and he also talked a lot about the history and origin of the carpet designs. I barely remember a thing of what he said. I just remember how cool some of the carpets were.

Shortly after the carpet exhibition began, we got our third surprise: the store employees not only brought us drinks, but also brought us delicious-looking Turkish-style pizza. I mean look at this:

This was almost better than American pizza. It was really good.

I ate an incredible amount of that deliciousness (I mean what else am I supposed to do?) and drank some incredible apple tea, which tasted like apple cider but better. At that point, I thought: "You know what? This carpet store is actually really cool." But I hadn't seen nothing yet.

After maybe 15 minutes of the store owner rolling out more and more carpets, he said something like "OK, it's time for the grand finale!" And I was a bit skeptical, because he had already shown us so many cool carpets. What more could he have to offer?

Oh, how wrong and naive I was.

His employees rolled out the fourth surprise: a silk carpet that apparently won some 2007 international carpet competition. (Alas: I couldn't find the exact competition the carpet won online.) It had a bunch of cool designs on it, and it was blue: my favorite color. I thought "ok this is cool!"

But the shop owner insisted that we all take off our shoes and socks and step on the carpet. So I did. And the carpet was so impossibly soft it doesn't even make any sense. My bedroom floor is carpeted with probably some cheap material, and it feels nice and normal when I walk on it. But I guess there's something super special about silk handwoven carpets, because this was literally the softest and most comfortable carpet I've ever felt in my life.

I thought I couldn't be more surprised. Nope. Here came the fifth surprise: the shop owner told us that for each square inch of a silk carpet, there were a minimum of 412 double knots. It's hard to fully appreciate the magnitude of that fact, so I'm gonna give you a little illustration.

One of my favorite units of measurement is... the humble Cheez-It. Why? Well, because it measures 24x26 mm, or almost exactly one square inch (1 inch = 25.4 mm). Fun fact: Cheez-Its aren't square! But they serve as excellent visualization tools. "Oh, that pencil is about 9 Cheez-Its long, so it's 9 inches long!"

I love it when snack foods serve as convenient units of measure.

Now imagine placing that Cheez-It onto a carpet. (Or do it in real life, if you happen to have Cheez-Its lying around.) Some weaver meticulously added four hundred and twelve double knots for every Cheez-It's worth of carpet. What??? It takes so long — in fact, the shop owner told us that it takes four weavers fourteen months to create a 7' x 10' silk carpet.

I nominate carpet weavers as the most patient people on earth. Imagine if you were a carpet weaver and someone asked you this:

Random Guy: "Hey, what do you do for work?"

You: "Oh! I'm a weaver."

Random Guy: "Interesting! So what have you worked on in the past year?"

You: "Well, I handwove a 7' by 10' silk carpet with three of my friends. It looks really cool! I can show you a photo."

Random Guy: "Oh! Did you do anything else?"

You: "Nope. Just the carpet."

Random Guy: "Just the carpet? Seriously?"

You: "...yup."

Random Guy: "Oh." *walks away*

Seriously though: I have massive respect for weavers, because they are so dedicated to their craft and they make amazing things.

this is possibly the greatest meme template of all time

Okay back to the story. I was really satisfied at this point, and I realized that the carpet industry could use some press, because carpets are actually awesome and people should pay more attention to them. So I came up with possibly the best TV show idea ever.

You know Gordon Ramsay? He hosts all kinds of cooking shows. But why do people actually watch those shows? Because Ramsay's frequent insults are fiery and hilarious, and it makes for great television. (Plus, he has a British accent, which Americans can't resist listening to.)

Now look at this poster that I spent a long time making. Wouldn't you want to watch this show if it showed up in your Netflix recommendations??

modified the cover from here. Gordon Ramsay please don't sue me thanks!

Imagine how good the pilot episode would be:

Gordon Ramsay: "Your time starts now!"

Narrator: "These 10 contestants will have the next 8,760 hours to handcraft the most beautiful carpet these judges have ever seen. They will encounter twists and turns as the judges force them to do challenges, like 'weaving with only your feet for the next three days'. Stay tuned for the most intense and anticipated carpet show of the century!"

Contestant: "Wait so we have an entire year? This is gonna take a really long time and gonna be really bori-"

Narrator: "As I was saying, this is going to be the most intense carpet show of the century! We'll get nonstop action throughout the entire proces-"

Contestant: *laughing* "'Nonstop action'?? You need to get a grip, omniscient narrator voice guy. Do you have any idea how long it takes to handweave one square inch of a carpet?"

Narrator: "Oh you little ba-"

Gordon Ramsay: "Hey, cursing is my job, omniscient narrator voice guy! *turns to contestant* — Get back to work on your carpet, you ******* *****! It's already been five ******* minutes!! Are you trying to lose??"

I don't know about you, but I would 100% watch MasterWeaver.

Yeah! That's the story of my carpet store excursion in Istanbul. I hope you enjoyed this article. Please share it with a friend if you did.