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Travel Wise

Among the things to buy in Istanbul, foremost on anyone's list should be a carpet. Aydin took me to a couple of his favorite shops, one of which, Halicilik, is owned by jolly, rotund Sisko Osman, Sisko had his helpers bring out several types of carpets and explained the differences and the marks of quality the materials (cotton, wool, and silk), the fineness of the weave, the natural -dye colors. "But like wine," he said, "it takes experience to tell quality from the ordinary. "To know you're getting something good, conventional wisdom says to buy from a reputable shop. I took that advice and carried home a woven wool rug called a kilim, which now brightens a wall in my living room.

Rug merchant Sisko Osman (left) shows his wares at his shop, Halicilik, in Istanbul's Old City. Osman spends many weeks each year traveling throughout Turkey to buy carpets from women who weave them using methods generations old. In the Covered Bazaar (below), which dates back to the 15th century, shoppers can rummage through a maze of alleyways and some 4,000 shops.