Seeking advice on gifts to bring back from Istanbul
September 6, 2011 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Seeking ideas for a wedding gift to buy during our upcoming Istanbul trip, as well as smaller souvenirs to bring back for friends.

Less than a week after we return from two weeks in Istanbul, my sister-in-law is getting married. I don't want to get her a rug, but I'd love to search out something else in the sub-$200 range that we could bring her. She's a Brooklyn-based visual artist marrying a sculptor, living in a fairly sizable loft. I think art, clothes, textiles and interesting patterns would likely appeal to them. What kind of stuff should we look for?

Also, in the sub-$20 range, are there good trinkets we can search out to bring back for friends, co-workers, etc.? I don't like evil eye stuff, which seems to rule out one of the most iconic options. What else might be good and quintessentially Turkish?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Shopping (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I was in Turkey about 20 years ago Turkish ceramics were easy to find in Istanbul, especially in tourist areas like the Grand Bazaar. You can find smallish plates and dishes that will fit your luggage and wedding gift budget. Some glazes are not food-safe, and I wouldn't put any of it in the dishwasher.

A good sub-$20 gift might be food. Loukoum, AKA Turkish Delight, is sort of the iconic choice here. Quality varies widely, as does sweetness. Halvah is also very Turkish and keeps/travels well. Both of these were available everywhere in bazaars, specialty sweet shops, grocery stores, etc.
posted by Quietgal at 7:51 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: A Turkish tea set and a hookah are both good gifts. On the less expensive range, a Turkish coffee mill can also serve as a spice mill, and a box of Turkish apple tea is good, too.
posted by deanc at 8:56 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, the ceramics are gorgeous (─░znik is the key term here). Hammam towels are also lovely-- there are tons in the Grand Bazaar.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:59 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: On the 'small gift' end of things - Turkish delights were a big hit with my coworkers. They travel well & are light on the wallet & in luggage.
posted by xiaolongbao at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2011

Best answer: If my sister-in-law went to Turkey, I would want a jezve/ibrik or illustrated Hodja stories.

My father went to Turkey a lot in the early 70's and the inexpensive gemstone jewelry he bought my mother in the markets looks very modern now. Something called diaspore changes colors as your angle of view changes and is quite beautiful. A lot of the pieces are blue chalcedony and carnelian.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:21 AM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: I bought several alabaster jars, which I then added small lightbulbs to, one inside the jar and one above with a lampshade, to make table lamps. They're really pretty, and straddle the line between souvenir and handmade. Such a thing might be sold as a straight-up lamp if you look in the right places, but my trip was kind of whirlwind as far as shopping went.

Also for small gifts, Bursa's history as part of the Silk Road makes it super-easy to get gorgeous silk scarves in a million different shops. In Istanbul you might be limited to several thousand, but it's still not what I'd call difficult.

Depending on the friend, also consider the traditional shadow-puppets made of painted translucent camel leather - and try to make it to a puppet show while you're there.
posted by aimedwander at 6:52 AM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: You folks are awesome! Thanks for the great suggestions.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:43 PM on September 7, 2011

Totally delayed followup: In the market you can get brass trays that are mass-produced crafts (i.e. pretty sure they're done by hand, a guy hitting a stamp with a hammer to make the marks, but it's all about churning out tons of trays in just a couple of patterns). Ask one of those vendors if he has any interesting trays. Any older trays. For about twice the price ($40 instead of $20? I forget) you can buy something that's made out of much thicker metal, with the stamp marks actually deep embossing not just fine lines, and more complex and interesting patterns than the tourist version.

Basically, for any tourist store that you see something with that catches your eye, but turns out to be crap, it's probably a cheap imitation of a real art form, and if you tell the guy you want the real deal, you'll get something much more worth buying. True for trays, rugs, tea sets, tilework, alabaster, calligraphy pieces, etc. There are some things (like the ubiquitous tablecloths) that the charm is in their commonness rather than the quality but in general if you ask, and spend a bit more money, you can get something much more worth the suitcase space.
posted by aimedwander at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2011

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