After visiting the Topkapi palace, leaving via the Imperial Gate or Bab-ı-Humayun, I saw a grand looking gate immediately after the Topkapi palace entrance, just before the Fountain of Sultan Ahmet III, within the compounds of Aya Sofya. It is the entrance to yet another museum in the city – Carpet and Kilim Museum. You would be amazed how many museums are clustered in this area! Istanbul is really a city where you can just stand in one place and find a historical place or a museum somewhere nearby. This museum happens to be quite hidden to be honest, although many banners and posters let by-passers kow about the museum, but then again, one would easily miss it, thinking that the carpet museum would be inside Topkapi.
Unfortunately and strangely enough, this museum does not accept the Museum Card I had just bought. Considering that it is in the same compound and very near to the Topkapi Palace you would think that the management of this museum is the same across all the places. However, the entrance free is very cheap (10 Lira if I remember well) and you get access to a very beautiful selection of antique carpets in Turkey, and I think it is money well spent and worth your time, if you like to know more about carpets, which is one part of Islamic art as well.
The carpet museum was placed at where the imaret (soup kitchens) of Hagia Sophia used to be. Therefore you can see old ovens among the carpet displayed here. There are three separate rooms displaying carpets and kilims ftom the different regions and eras of Turkey, but if you are not careful you might miss the galleries as they are in separate buildings. You just need to follow the prompts closely to make sure you don’t miss anything.
The first gallery displays carpets from Beylikler (principalities) as well as early and classical Ottoman times. The second one houses more Ottoman Era Central and Eastern Anatolia carpets and prayer rugs, while the last gallery exhibit large Usak carpets and prayer rugs. Here you can see very large carpets that are used in homes as well as cuma carpets for mosques. In these galleries you can also read about the history of the carpets and the way they are made, as well as the motifs in the carpets and the kilims and their meanings. Some of the carpets are also hung above the old ovens like personal prayer carpets, to help you appreciate those carpets better. Some of the carpets are hung from the ceilings, exhibiting the size of these carpets, which is a very impressive feat considering they are all handmade. All of the carpets are from the 14th century up to the 19th century.
This museum is indispensable if you want to learn about the difference between the types of carpets on exhibit as well as help you to decipher and discover the motifs used in each of the carpet. I think it would be a nice museum to visit if you have a child with you so you can play find-the-motif games with them. You can entertain them and educate them along the way. If you have a high interest in Islamic art though, this museum is a must visit.