Life takes you on some unexpected turns sometimes, but today when I rounded a different corner in my effort to complete a mental map of Sultanahmet’s hans, I discovered a nargile (hookah/water pipe) manufacturing operation. That’s the thing I love about this area. There’s the tourist attractions, and then there’s the real neighborhood, a crumbling, cracked but still moving area of enterprise and trade.
Though it can be a little intimidating at times peering down dark corridors, there always seems to be a reward waiting at the end. As I was exploring another dark tunnel today, a voice cried out and invited me in. That voice was Mustafa’s. He and his good friend, Yusuf, were hard at work hand-crafting the tubing and pipe section of the water pipes for the factory. Mustafa, 30, (pictured below) has been doing this for over 15 years, and has taken over the business from his father who has had this same dükkan for 40 years.
Though hard at work — he hand makes over 100 pipes a day — I was invited in and offered a glass of water, and was later offered a cigarette too, which I thought was rather amusing considering we were in the midst of a water pipe factory. Mustafa and Yusuf were relentless. Painting leather strips with glue, rolling piping, cutting fabric, they were like two human machines working at twice the tempo of the music blasting from the radio.
Business is of course, tough, and just about everything made in Turkey these days is always under threat from China, even it appears, something as specialized as nargile. I have to say that I really enjoyed the half an hour I spent chatting with these two. Their hospitality was great, and I was invited to drop back in any time.