Ihsan Uçyıldız would be seventy seven years old if he was stili alive today. He was doing his aıt with passion until four years ago. I often recall, with admiration, his humble manners along with his effoıts to be comprehensible in our conversations. To be honest, even though I had it all the time anel used it while smoking the hookah, I clid not know that the name of the l10se that connects the lips to the bottle was called marpuç. I especially had no clue about the characteristics of a fine marpuç. I, then, realizecl how much craftsmanship and encleavor was required in the production of our daily tools and the things that we take for granted. I have always heaı·d the song saying “tl1e hose of my hookah is made of silver” but if it were not for İhsan, I would never realize the mistake in this lovely song. According to him, a marpuç is never macle of silver or any otl1er metal, rather, a fine marpuç must be made of gemıine leather. First of all, let’s understand what marpuç is. While Master İhsan was explaining the qualities of a fine marpuç, he used to say that the process of making a marpuç is veıy laborious and demancling; an effoıt nourished by love anel respect just !ike any otl1er. “The best marpuç is macle of the best quality leather. For years, there had been people who triecl new materials, inciueling some materials tl1at are easier to produce than the leather, but they all eneleel up with failure.
The leather has a unique quality; it is breathable and filters toxic and tar. Altl1ough hookah hoses are generally used for 7-8 months, the lifetime of a high quality marpuç is actually three to four montl1S. It becomes useless after four montl1S because it gets covered witl1 tar.” Master İhsan used to infoım us about marpuç’s histoıy as well. “Eveıyone tl-ıinks that marpuç was brought to us by Arabs, yet, it is us who introduced marpuç to them. During the Ottoman era, when the Turks used to rule tl1e Arab countries, we were sending marpuçs to them. However, we attained tl1is aıt from Persians.” In some of his other conversations, he would say that it was expoıted from Persians to the Arabs and from Arabs to the Ottomans, anel that it was enjoyed widely even in the Palace. “My grandfatl1er Çilli Mustafa was the head master of foıty marpuç makers. At the same time, he was the head of tl1e firemen in Çiçek Bazaar. During the reign of Abdulhanıit he established a corporate company with a man nameel Zülküf. They were mamıfact:uring marpuçs anel expoıting hookahs to Arabia. The business was pretty well. However, once the war broke out, eveıybody got enlistecl irı the aımy. Many maıpuç masters and foremen were k.illed in the war and their stores doseel clown.”"When I could remember, my father was a shoemaker. He staıted as a foreman of some Greek masters. He was an expeıt in his business. He was also a doctor. He usecl to make shoes for disabled feet. Cahit lrgatlar used to get his shoes designeel by my father. He was an expeıt on leather, too. They used to take my fatl1er to the factoıy so that he coulcl pick out the best leather. They used to cal! him “Master Mazlum” The money tl1at he made from a pair of shoes used to suppoıt us for a week People would tel! me that my fatl1er used to be a marpuç maker, but I did not know what it meant. One day, we saw a man wandering around with a bunch of marpuçs irı his hands.
I and my father were standirıg irı front of the store. When tl1e man asked my father if there is a place where tl1ose could be fixed, my father responded, “let me take a look.” He got tl1em in his hands, looked at tl1em for a white and said “I can fix them, come back in a week.” It was 1948 at tl1e time and he restaıteel his marpuç business after this occasion.”As Master İhsan was teliing tl1e stoıy, he was fixing a maıpuç irı his hands. All the masters had this custom of keepirıg their hand busy with work even white cl1atting witl1 others. “That’s how we staıted this business,” he contirıued. “My father set a team. We were stil! doing shoe business along with marpuç. They were both going well. Back then, İnönü (tl1e 2nd president of Turkey) doseel the border gates with Syıia. Sirıce the border was closed, eveıy city irı the South was buyirıg marpuçs from us. Enıirgan lived its most beautiful, blessed and delightful days witl1 our marpuçs. Marpuçs that my father made became famous. I remember that one day there were two trucks waitirıg for two days in oı·der to get fifty hoses of him. They insisted on all of them being made by my father. People formed lines to buy hookah hoses from him. For he could never break people’s heart, he would promise everyone, even though he knew that it was impossible to keep up with all the orders. Thus, he would put himself in positions where he couldn’t keep his promises. I used to get mad at him because of this situation, but, on the other hand, the overwhelming insistence of the customers was unbearable.” “My father passed away. The store was sold right after his death. I opened a small store here and maintained the business. I trained many apprentices however they were greedy of money. They left and started their own businesses. Now they are all very rich.” “It is not only about making a hose. It is also important to shave the leather. One should know which leather must go where. One has to know which types of leather must be used. They think, in vain, that they have mastered in this art.
They do not understand the quality of leather. They use leathers as thin as a paper.” There was rather a grievance in Master İhsan’s voice than anger. Although he was in a good shape in spite of his old age, we knew that he was sick. Later on, he started to come less to his store. When we first met in 2001 he said he started the business again four years ago and sold each marpuç for araund 10 to 12 Turkish liras. “The length of marpuç is determined according to the sheep. The hose gets molded. Thenit gets wrapped inside with a wire. Molding is very important; you have to be very careful not to ruin it. Not everybody can do it right, therefore many marpuçs are flawed. Anyway, we make 50% profit from this product. Tourists also visit me. Since I make affordable and high quality products, they know me and especially look for me. It is hard to dea! with people who do not understand from this business. The crafsmanship is valued in Turkey, but it does not pay well. Master Ihsan showed up less and less in the Bazaar. I do not like to tel! the end of his story. It became a custom of me to pray for him as I look at the marpuç of the hookah whenever I smoke.