It is no magic carpet ride but the diverse colors and motifs of thousands of handmade carpets and rugs is an alluring sight for visitors of Antalya's "carpet fields." Laid under the sun for a restoration process in sprawling fields, the carpets are exposed to sunlight in this Mediterranean city to soften their colors and disinfect them.
Naturally, the fields in Antalya's Döşemealtı district are a popular destination among tourists. Mehmet Çelik, an executive at the company restoring the carpets, says they are overwhelmed with visitors who discovered the fields via the internet or TV.
"Some people even organize tours here and newlywed couples come here for photos. We had to change our phone numbers several times because of the high demand to visit," Çelik said.
Döşemealtı, a district famous for production of handmade carpets, is full of carpet fields throughout summer. Restorers rent the fields from local farmers after they finish harvest in May. Carpet owners, including companies reselling them after restoration, send carpets and rugs from all around Turkey.
The carpets and rugs are first cleaned before a burning process to shorten protruding threads. Then, for three months, they remain spread over the fields to soften their colors and clean them of microbes. In early September, restorers remove them and load them to trucks to ship back to the owners. It is not a simple process though and restorers keep watch around the clock for rainfall. Workers are also required to stand guard against carpets disturbed by the wind because spots not exposed to sunlight can spoil the process.Çelik, whose company oversees the restoration process of thousands of carpets in a field of about 250 acres, says it is a family business inherited from their grandparents and every year, they have about 20,000 carpets and rugs. "All are handmade, valuable pieces, from Persian rugs to carpets from Isparta and Milas (a Turkish city and a town known for carpet weaving)," he added.
The amount of exposure to sun varies depending on the color of the carpet, light ones take a shorter time while those with darker colors require sunlight for a longer time.
"Döşemealtı is a humid place and at night, the carpets are exposed to dew that functions as a substance that lightens the colors. So, the carpets look more authentic. Sunlight exposure also ensures that it is free of pests for at least two years," he explained.
Turkish carpet makers saw a rising interest in aged, antique-style carpets woven with modern colors in recent years. The country is one of major exporters of carpets preferred for its diverse variety of designs and richness of color, as well as quality workmanship and competitive prices.
The company received a barrage of calls from visitors in recent years after carpet fields became popular with the rise of social media. Çelik says they don't allow most people to take photos because some clients do not want their rare carpets to be seen without their permission.