Cultural encounters in Istanbul
There is of course no shortage of carpets for sale in the souq, but few are as original as the kilims (pileless woven rugs) on offer at Dhoku. Every new rug is a patchwork of older pieces rescued from the scrapheap - a square from a worn out pair of harem pants, a section of an interior wall from a Yoruk (nomad) tent. "We buy fabrics from all over the country, from mountain villages to city flea markets, then we re-dye them," says the shop's owner, Memet Gureli, shaking out a finished kilim coloured a deep, inky blue. "The designs are very modern, but our rugs have a great deal of history."
Carpets are an important part of Turkish culture, says Memet. "They're not just mats for the floor, they're symbols of status and play a major role in how people live." But there is one carpet-buying tradition he is keen to move away from: haggling. "Such negotiations are so awkward. Even if someone ends up purchasing something at a good price, after that experience they probably wouldn't come away thinking they'd got a good deal," says Memet. "The traders are reluctant to give it up, but I'm proud that our prices are non-negotiable."
An equally calm shopping experience can be found on the other side of town, at the Çukurcuma antiques quarter in Beyoğlu. The buildings here look like stage sets for a period drama - uninhabited tumbledown wooden houses seemingly on the brink of collapse lean against the pastel coloured facades of apartment blocks. Each of the winding, hilly streets contains stores selling everything from fine Ottoman-era antiques to kitsch late-20th-century bric-a-brac.
At Şamdan Antique I find a beautiful example of ornamental calligraphy - a black plaque inlaid with mother of pearl. With many images of living things forbidden by Islam, Koranic texts became the focus for Turkish decorative artists. Nearby Tombak Antika is full to bursting, its haphazard collection spilling out from cabinets and over tables: taxidermy and copper coffee pots, silver penknives and tobacco tins printed with the faces of past sultans. The shopkeeper shows me textiles that would have once formed part of a girl's dowry, painstakingly hand embroidered with gold and silver thread. Çukurcuma is not just a place to find things to buy - its shopkeepers are urban archaeologists, excavating and preserving the relics of an ever-changing city.
- Dhoku, Kapalıçarşi Takkeciler Sokak 58-60
- Samdan Antique, Altıpatlar Sokak 20, Cukurcuma
- Tombak Antika, Faik Paşa Yokuşu 22, Çukurcuma
Best Istanbul ferry trips
A day on the Bosphorus
At the narrowest point of the strait that armies have fought over, the 15th-century towers of Rumeli Hisarı - the Fortress of Europe - face their counterparts on the Asian side. Bosphorus ferries pass these forts, as well as the late Ottoman pleasure palaces of Dolmabahçe and Beylerbeyi, and the resort of Yenıköy. Ferries stop at several points along the route before turning back at the village of Anadolu Kavağı. Bosphorus cruises depart from Eminönü quay near the Galata Bridge. There are three departures a day, and the trip takes 1. hours each way, with a lengthy stop at the turn-around point (￡11 round-trip).
Golden Horn cruise
The Golden Horn (Haliç in Turkish) is a smaller stretch of water than the Bosphorus, and the boat trip is less known to travellers. You will be able to see a very different and more intimate side to Istanbul here. The boat passes the district of Fener, the old home to the city's Greek population with its sprinkling of Christian churches, and makes its final stop close to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque - Islam's fourth holiest site. Golden Horn ferries leave Eminönü quay every hour during the day, stopping at five points along the route. The trip takes around 35 minutes and costs 65p each time you board.