On May 12 our cruise ship sailed into port in İstanbul. I didn’t know much about Turkey, but was instantly captured by its beauty. We were overwhelmed with the colors, fabrics, art, architecture and most importantly the people. Everyone was so friendly and inviting.

Our first stop was the Grand Bazaar. The merchants were quick to show us their wares and just as quick to exchange a greeting or help with directions. My mother and I found such kindness and humor. It was something that marked all our time in İstanbul and Kuşadası. The Turkish people were graciousness itself. We were so touched by how welcoming we found everyone we met throughout İstanbul.

Two memories stand out in particular. When I was in the rug section of the bazaar, I would answer the sellers that back home I also enjoy designing and making rugs. At one store a striking man in an emerald green shirt came out, took my hand and said: “You design rugs? Then you should stay.” I was speechless. I asked what I should do about my mother. He said she could stay, too. Unfortunately, reality interposed in the form of our cruise ship schedule, but I thought of it often in that it captured the spirit of welcome that we met in the city. We were treated like invited guests rather than just more tourists. I found it heartbreaking to leave.

The other event that happened was, when we were walking, a woman ahead of us was being beckoned by a rug merchant. She said she’d already bought one. What surprised me was the reaction of the staff. They all smiled and congratulated her. I have never seen this reaction before. In our country, the salesmen would think only of their own commission and turn their backs. A guide explained to me that they were celebrating the good fortune of their countrymen. This was so impressive and noble. I felt I needed to write to thank the people of İstanbul for being so open to us as visitors.

I haven’t stopped talking about Turkey to everyone I meet. I dream of being able to return some day and see more of your great country.

My thanks and admiration, Deborah Groom, Langley, British Columbia, Canada