How to Buy a Carpet in Istanbul Without Getting Ripped Off
If you travel to Turkey, you can’t help but see beautiful Turkish carpets wherever you go. And these souvenirs are more than just mementos—if you are smart about it, your carpet will not only hold value, but become more valuable as both an heirloom and as an investment.
Here are five tips to help you avoid getting ripped off when shopping for a carpet.
1. Don’t expect to find an incredible bargain
Turks know the value of carpets. If you are trying to get something for nothing or something valuable for next to nothing, chances are that you will get something that is worth nothing. A small, well-made carpet that is new will not be less than $200. The price goes up depending on quality, size, age, provenance (where it’s made) and the materials it is made from.
2. Don’t waste your time
Don’t bother looking for bargains in the Grand Bazaar or hole-in-the-wall shops in Istanbul. Instead, go straight to the oldest, biggest, most successful carpet shops. The artisans working there have reputations to protect and they don’t mind telling you the truth about what you are buying. They will still try to charge you as much as possible, but they won’t lie to you about what you are buying.
3. Don’t break the law
It is actually illegal to export antique Turkish carpets. Anything over 100 years old is considered a cultural treasure and must be certified and approved for export by the Turkish government. If someone tries to sell you a very old carpet, they are either lying or breaking the law, unless they have certification and approval from the Turkish Department of Antiquities.
4. Don’t fall for fakes
Many of the rugs you find in the Grand Bazaar or bargain shops are not Turkish at all. They are Chinese, Arab or Central Asian. Egyptian and Chinese sweatshops produce hundreds of carpets with child labour that are sold as “Turkish” or “Persian” carpets to unwitting foreigners.
5. Don’t get scammed by “old” tricks
One common trick of scamming rug merchants is to buy cheap new rugs and then lay them out on the cobblestone streets of Sultanahmet to be rained on and run over by cars. This can turn a new rug into a “valuable antique” in just a few days.
I’ve met and drank tea with many carpet merchants in Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and the U.S. If you want to buy a beautiful, well-made and valuable Turkish carpet in Istanbul, my recommendation is to visit Mustapha Cesur at Troy Rugs in the Arasta Bazaar near the Blue Mosque. Not only is he honest, friendly and knowledgeable, he is also happy to answer questions, let you look without pressure and, best of all, he serves the best tea in the bazaar. Tell him Vago sent you.