This is the final chapter of the Master Rug Cleaner Tour of Turkey. We saw the main tourist destinations of Istanbul, Izmir, Ephesus and Cappadocia and visited the rug weaving, dyeing and finishing facilities of Woven Legends. (Editor’s Note: See the August and October issues of ICS for Parts I and II, respectively.) We continue by chartered bus to the far eastern border of Turkey.
Three of the ladies on the tour were of Armenian descent and wanted to visit the villages where their grandfathers lived as well as see some of the iconic sites from Armenian history.
Armenia is one of the world’s oldest civilizations going back to the 6th-century B.C. with the old borders of the country extending halfway into the current country of Turkey. Just about every major group of people that has passed through the region, first with the Greeks and ending with the Ottomans, conquered Armenia. World War I was the darkest era of their history when the Turks ordered the deportation of the Armenians to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. According to the majority of historians, up to 1.5 million Armenians died in the 20th century’s first genocide.
Many survivors escaped to Europe, Canada or the U.S. and for generations have been the backbone of the rug cleaning and restoration industry.
The first village on the “grandfather tour” was Gurun (east of Kayseri) where Jessica Kasparian’s family was from. It was an emotional time for Jessica to finally visit her roots.
The next “family home stop” was the village of Silvan where Ellen Amirkhan’s grandfather was born. It was an emotional visit for Ellen as well. The villages today are still very rural and both ladies were glad they were “from” there, appreciating their families’ sacrifices and hardships getting to North America to create a better life for their descendants.
(Sharian Garner’s great grandfather was from Tarsus on the southeastern coast, but our schedule did not permit a visit this time.)
Diyarbakir was our next rug weaving stop. This walled city sits on the Tigris River. We visited a Woven Legends workshop, but this time the weavers were “city girls” wearing more jeans and fewer headscarves. The weavers were happy to give us a lesson in weaving. As in the villages, we accompanied Nesilhan Jevremovic, CEO of Woven Legends, who visited the rug weavers to check on production quality.
While in Diyarbakir, Robert Mann took us rug shopping in the old part of the city. The modern rugs were more folk art than collectables, but very reasonable. We had the sense of “dumpster diving for rugs” as we had to fight the moths and dust, but had a lot of great fun digging for treasures.
Our next stop was a boat ride on Lake Van to visit Akdamar Island, the home of an ancient Armenian church of the same name that dates back to 915 A.D. The mosaics are still in remarkably good condition.
We stopped for photos at the most iconic of all images of Armenia – Mount Ararat. The mountain is 17,000 feet in height and sits on the borders of Turkey, Iran and Armenia. It is associated with the “Mountains of Ararat,” where, according to the book of Genesis, Noah’s ark came to rest. It is possible to spend days trekking through the mountain, but no guarantee of finding Noah.
The last Armenian cultural stop was the ancient ruins of the walled city of Ani. This was a key city on the “Silk Road” and at its height during the Middle Ages had a population over 100,000. It was known as the city of 1,000 churches due to the large numbers of Armenian churches contained within the walls. Sadly, the city was destroyed by several earthquakes and has been in ruins for centuries.
We returned to Istanbul by air via the city of Kars for a farewell dinner overlooking the Bosporus. A few of us went on to spend a few days sailing the Aegean Sea not wanting the adventure to end and return to our daily routines.
It was a spectacular trip with a delightful, energetic and outstanding group of rug cleaners. We are all waiting for the next Master Rug Cleaner adventure.