I’ve regaled friends and family and even my writers’ group with stories of my travel adventures and thought you might enjoy this.
The time is March, 2013 – usually a time to bask in the nurturing sun of Phoenix spring.
My visit to Turkey was spur of the moment, prompted by my Israeli daughter’s equally sudden decision to get married in Jerusalem, within two weeks. A solo jaunt to the Istanbul, Cappadocia and the magical Ephesus followed on the heels of her wedding. I had little time to bone up on the history and customs of the country.
And the flying carpets!
It’s all about the knots per square inch. He interlaces his fingers, pulls himself tall, smooths his waistcoat. This latter-day Don Juan, a cross between Warren Beatty and James Bond, bows graciously and ushers us into the showroom where the scripted procession unfolds. Three immaculately groomed and elegantly dressed, bearded Turks jump to attention. They run to and fro with multicolored palettes, more stunning than the most magnificent paintings I have ever seen. Yet they are carpets, flung across the room like silk scarves or rags, for my perusal. (In Cappadocia they’re wool, indigenous to the region and “can’t be found anywhere else.”)
The man, Umit, calls out to me, “Even Tom Hanks came and had to bring one home from the region despite the protests of his decorator.”
Here in Istanbul, they have it all. Speak your heart’s desire and one of the wiry bearded fellows with educated thumbs will delve into the pile, pluck a carpet, and toss it out with a flourish –for your inspection.
I sip my tiny cup of sublime apple tea and contemplate my future. Do I commit to buying a carpet before I ask for a second cup?
Why am I here? I didn’t ask for this. My guide, Mehmet, had presented the day’s activities, starting with a tour of Topkapi Palace, where I was invited to view the history and intimate habits of 36 Sultans. Some had as many as four wives, plus a collection of loyal concubines. The sultans were followed by a luncheon of exotic eggplant—my favorite– with cooked vegetables — and a cursory whisk through the Grand Bazaar.
But Mehmet didn’t mention this. For this grand finale — a visit to a carpet showroom? Here, I am lucky enough to become an accomplice to the secrets of the trade. Mehmet’s lips court a smile, his head tilts ever so slightly, his chin lurches forward, he bows.
Wait– why a Turkish carpet? And why me?
The answer to my question will come, three days later, when I get my belated lesson on the customs of this land. It’s Wednesday, halfway through the trip. The 5 am flight transports us to Cappadocia in central Turkey, with its cave dwellings and underground cities, set among moonlike landscapes. Reminiscent of Sedona.
Standing at the gate, waiting for the flight, I come upon an American businessman shouting, “My wife and I are touring. I told my travel agent if there was so much as an inkling of a visit to a carpet factory on this trip, she would never see me again.” His wife flutters her eyelashes and nods dutifully.
It is to be a revelation.
But alas, by that time, it will be too late. Istanbul and Umit have made it all too irresistible for me.
This is part 1 of 2, Part 2 to follow next week.
Speak From Your Heart and Be Heard: Stories of Courage and Healing is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle and some independent bookstores.