At last I cave in to the obligation to buy a rug when in Turkey. They are cheap here, in the carpet alley of the Sanliurfa bazaar, and a little hesitation brings the price down nicely. Other men watch the transaction, hunched in sock feet beside their own towering carpet stacks. We leave with carpet in hand, out again to the centre of the bazaar. Men squat in the dirt, drinking tea, smoking, talking, gawking. Doing nothing. Others are hard at work, stationed by donkeys laden with parsley, or by carts of cigarettes, shouting “Marlboro! Marlboro!” at us in throaty voices. Groups of women shop, their ankle-length wool coats buttoned to the neck in the 30-degree weather. Arabic women wear velvet robes and lilac head coverings, with occasional blue face tattooing as a sign of beauty. Closer to the pools of sacred carp and Abraham’s cave, we see black-sheeted Iranian women here on pilgrimage. Men are in headdress and baggy salvars—balloon skirts that turn into pants at the knee. Motorbikes sport donkey saddlebags.
We, apparently, are good for business. Joy and I stop to browse at a cosmetic stand, and are soon crowded by several women wanting whatever we, the Westerners, are wanting. I buy a couple skirts from a couple too-attentive salesmen, emerging from the dingy change room to a male audience pronouncing the selection “chok guzel” (very beautiful). One salesman brings the price down to two and a half million (about $2.50 US), with a grin at me when Joy questions him on it. He wants to get to Canada, and a Canadian wife is the ticket…but a discount on a skirt doesn’t quite persuade me.
We run into a friend of Dave and Joy’s, a young man about my age, who has 34 brothers and sisters. There are three wives.
Dave meets us for lunch, and we climb the restaurant’s steep staircase to the upper floor where women are permitted, out of the way--so they won’t distract, or so they can eat without stares? Our wraps are brought to us in newspaper. When we finish we receive the usual dousing in cologne water.
We travel by crowded city bus. The attendant shouts the name of each stop, swinging precariously from the open front door to the street, calling out to passersby, then as the bus starts again, grabbing hold of the rail and landing just in time on the back step. I’m often sure we will lose him. Occasionally he disappears altogether, trotting toward a shop with an empty tea glass in hand.