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.
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 is it?”
“You see what it is. It’s an ibrik. I made it.”
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 pan.
“Why does it have wheels?” I asked Aladdin.
The best was the time I caught him sitting on his three-legged stool critically inspecting an elaborate nargile (water pipe).
“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 yesterday.”
It certainly looked three centuries old.
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 asked.
“Sell it, of course.”
” I haven’t decided how old it will be yet,” he added. “From which sultan’s reign, I mean.”
“But who will buy it? It’s so….so big!”
“I dunno,” he said with a grin. “We’ll see.”
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 asked.
“That would be very kind of you,” he answered. I sized him up for it: shorter than I, but heavier. Sort of, well, troll-like.
We completed our bargaining. The prices we ended at were good. Surprisingly low.
I wrote to my mother, the factory-seconds maven, and asked her to look for a raincoat in Aladdin’s size.
(Next: Rockefeller Geldi!)
(Excerpts from Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Teacopyright © 2004, 2005 by Tom Brosnahan. All rights reserved.)