Yemeni, once fit for the grace of princesses in A Thousand and One Nights, open to the world thanks to masters in Gaziantep Bazaar.
Contributor: YUSUF MERİÇ
Yemeni, an essential of brides, shepherds, farmers and even princes in the past, is revived in the hands of masters from Antep before completely forgotten. The latest representatives of yemeni-making, once all across Anatolia, are in Gaziantep and Kahramanmaraş. Masters could not find it in their hearts to let yemeni, a major element in Ottoman daily living, turn into authentic tourist item. History of yemeni, used for more than six hundred years in Anatolia, goes a long way back. A shoe of Middle Eastern origin, yemeni has a history dating back to Pre-Islamic period. A very healthy footwear, yemeni is a completely natural item with upper part made of goat and sole made of cow leather. Yemeni, made by applying cotton thread and fabric on leather, is the product of a handicraft that requires both patience and preciosity. This fine shoe, filtered through ancient Turkish traditions, first arrived in Gaziantep over Aleppo, and from here spread to Anatolia and the Balkans. Anatolian motifs were added during this journey and it has gone through a transformation in line with taste of Turkish people. Its sole and upper parts are attached by hand-stitching which is the primary feature that distinguishes yemeni from other footwear.
Hollywood’s Yemeni-maker Orhan Çakıroğlu
“I have been a yemeni master for half a century. I am the fourth generation representative of yemeni-making profession started by my great grandfather Master Abu in 1870. Today we survive this tradition in Gaziantep Bazaar. One day a British lady visited the shop. It turned out that she was working for a large company that provides costumes for American films. We produced yemenis for the film Troy. Brad Pitt liked our yemenis and sent us his signed photo as a thank you gift. When I hanged the photo in the shop, they started to refer me as Brad Pitt’s yemeni-maker. Later we made yemeni for numerous other films and we continue this business.”
The name given to tanned leather used on yemeni’s exterior.