The Turkish tallit is actually not from Turkey, but from Tunisia. During the 19th century, when Tunisia was under Ottoman rule (hence the name “Turkish”), a sultan banned linen from the country. These wool tallits soon became popular because they could be presumed to be free of shatnez (a fiber combination prohibited by Torah law).
Heaviest Wool Tallit Available
Made from a dense weave, the Echt Turkish Tallit (“genuine Turkish tallit”) is the heaviest wool tallit available. It also features double-knotted fringes. A variation on the Echt Turkish Tallit is the Kmo Turkish Tallit (“faux”), which is made of a somewhat lighter woolen weave. Today, the Turkish tallit is often chosen by Chassidim or as a gift for a Jewish groom or anyone else looking for a traditional prayer shawl with a distinctive, regal look.
Echt Turkish Tallit vs. Kmo Turkish Tallit
Today two types of Turkish tallits are available. The Echt Turkish Tallit is made from Tunisian wool, whose dense weave makes it the heaviest traditional wool tallit found. The Kmo Turkish Tallit employs the same design, pattern and features as authentic Turkish tallits, but uses a somewhat lighter weave of wool; still the Kmo talit remains noticeably heavier than a standard tallit.
Both the Echt and the Kmo include a cotton lining and cotton side bands, and feature unique double-knotted fringes along the edges; they are sold without an atara, because many Chassidim who opt for the Turkish or Kmo tallit have a special, ornate atara sewn on.
Owing to the fabric, this tallit lasts for many years and therefore includes added features to make sure it retains its look over time.
Mishkan Hatchelet used to make the Echt Turkish, but discontinued production a few years ago. They still make the Kmo Turkish. Talitania manufactures both.
One online vendor offers a Kmo Turkish priced over $160, an Echt Turkish priced around $220 — and then another Echt Turkish priced just over $100! This was a big mystery to me until I discovered the bargain “Echt Turkish” is actually a standard weight tallit with Turkish striping, a lining, side bands and double-knotted fringes. But the cost of an authentic Echt Turkish is considerably higher largely because of the extra weight; essentially you’re getting about 50% more tallit (see tallit weight comparison).