old friend Aladdin and his Istanbul
lamp shop, from
my travel memoir, Bright
Sun, Strong Tea. (The
previous episode is Midnight
It was time to check on my friend Aladdin,
the antikaci (antique dealer) with
all the good copper and brass Ottoman
lamps, pots, trays and curiosities.
I strolled along Çadircilar
Caddesi outside Istanbul's Grand
Bazaar and as I neared his shop
I noticed a monstrosity: a five-foot-high
copper water pitcher.
It was an Ottoman ibrik, a
ewer of classic design, fancy with
spiral indentations swirling around
its bulbous shape and a long spout
that emerged from near the bottom of
the vessel and rose to the top in a
graceful sinuous curve. It was enormous,
and it was standing right in front
of Aladdin's shop.
I approached it, amazed. What on earth
was it, where had it come from, what
was it for?
I peered through the door. Aladdin
looked up and smiled.
"How do you like it?" he asked.
"It's amazing," I said. "What on earth
"You see what it is. It's an ibrik. I
Okay, I knew that Aladdin, a talented
craftsman trained as a coppersmith
in his youth, made some strange things.
I caught him once making a traditional Turkish
coffee pot. It was beautifully,
carefully made, but it had wheels on
it. Putting wheels on a coffee pot
was like putting wheels on a frying
"Why does it have wheels?" I asked
The best was the time I caught him
sitting on his three-legged stool critically
inspecting an elaborate nargile (water
"How do you like it?" he asked as
I stepped inside. "It's from the reign
of Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730)."
"Beautiful," I said.
"Thank you," he said. "I finished
It certainly looked three centuries
The gigantic ibrik, the ewer,
was obviously just decorative. It could
barely be picked up by a strong person
when empty, let alone full of water.
"What do you plan to do with it? " I
"Sell it, of course."
" I havent decided how
old it will be yet," he added. "From
which sultan's reign, I mean."
"But who will buy it? It's so
"I dunno," he said with a grin. "We'll
I was not interested in enormous ibriks, wheeled
coffee pots or even in brand-new imperial
Ottoman water-pipes. I looked at other
things, and found some I liked. I set
them before Aladdin, who ignored them.
"I've seen American raincoats," he
said. "They look good. Waterproof,
too, I'll bet."
I knew a cue when I heard it.
"Would you like me to bring you one?" I
"That would be very kind of you," he
answered. I sized him up for it: shorter
than I, but heavier. Sort of, well,
We completed our bargaining. The prices
we ended at were good. Surprisingly
I wrote to my mother, the factory-seconds
maven, and asked her to look for a
raincoat in Aladdin's size.
here to order an autographed
copy of the book online with
credit card or PayPal.
from Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong
Tea copyright © 2004, 2005
by Tom Brosnahan. All rights reserved.)
Excerpts from Bright Sun,
Sun, Strong Tea Photo
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