In a former madrasa near the grand bazar, surrounded by some of Istanbul’s numerous carpet shops, is the small craftsmen workshop “ince su halı” (thin water carpet). The vault ceiling is low. There are four men working, sitting on small stools or coffins. They are carpet repairers.
All of them left the same small city in Cappadocia to make a better living in Istanbul, one of the world’s biggest carpet markets. Kamil, 24 years old and single, is meticulously sewing an ancient rug. Kamil started learning his craft at the age of 9. His father was a carpet repairer as well. Kamil explains: “It’s not a very hard job but you have to start apprenticeship at a very young age if you want to become a master. When you get older, you cannot improve your skills anymore and you become slower”.
In 1997 the Turkish government decided that compulsory primary education, which starts when kids are six years old, would be eight years instead of the earlier five. The apprenticeship age was raised from the age of 13 to 15. For most young people, the aim now is to at least finish high school. This way, fewer are likely to do like Kamil and start their careers early. “I’m the last generation of carpet repairers, children don’t choose this profession anymore”. When asked which job he would prefer for his children, he answered football player.
But Kamil loves his job and enjoys living in Istanbul: “I wouldn’t want to go back to the village. The lifestyle here is better, the mentality is different. There’s more work and more opportunities to meet girls as well.”