Having visited the east and west of Turkey a couple of times, I noticed that you find the economic boom mainly in the west. Travelling through the eastern regions, you can see the hardship of their lives on some people‘s faces.
When I visited Selcuk in Western Turkey two years ago, I had a long talk with a carpet dealer. Himself originally from the east, he told me of the importance of buying handmade products, to support the people in those poorer regions. And, of cause, carpets are among the main handcrafted products produced there.
The classic Turkish carped is either knotted or flat woven. The oldest records of woven carpets – or kilims – were found in Çatalhöyük near Konya, dating back to 7000 B.C.. The knotted rug is believed to be brought to the region with the migration of Turkic peoples from Central Asia between the 6th and 11th century.
After the crusades, the first carpets were imported to Europe in the 11th century. Through the extended trade with the Middle East, carpets became more and more fashionable and even European carpets were produced.
Today, hand crafted carpets are not as fashionable anymore – in Europe and in Turkey. People look for cheaper carpets, with simpler designs which usually are machine made. Therefore, the production of handcrafted carpets is in decline.
Especially in Eastern Turkey it is very easy to run into a carpet shop, or stand on a bazaar. So, of cause, I visited some – and even a small carpet factory – on my journeys where I had the chance to talk to the dealers. Most of them told me that the problem in those regions is the lack of clients. Tourists are usually backpackers, not interested in buying a rug, or parties of organised excursions who are led to established shops or carpet factories.
But there are also several projects to revive the carpet industry – and hopefully, they will find a way the increase the popularity of handwoven and knotted carpets and rugs.