Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April Holiday: Morocco: Fes (the tannery)

(from here)

The tannery was something that we'd wanted to visit since the beginning of our trip.  Famously large and with some of the best leatherwork in the world, it was pretty much everything it was cracked up to be, and also somewhat disturbing given the treatment and lack of healthcare of the workers.
Animal skins are treated in the white vats with a combination of pigeon poop, cow urine, and ash and then dyed with indigo, saffron, poppy flowers, and mint in the coloured vats.  Workers jump in and out of the chemicals with bare feet, making sure that the skins are entirely covered.  Visitors to the tannery are given mint sprigs to hold under their noses, but the smell is still overpowering, and must be for the workers, too.  Those who work in the tannery are from families that have always worked in the tanneries, it seems - the job is passed down from father to son.  
Beside the tanneries are the leather goods that come out of it: bags and wallets and shoes and jackets, in every colour and style I could imagine.  I bought my first ever leather bag (all the others I have are cloth and gifts from friends and family) and a whole lot of wallets as Christmas presents for our extended family.  It was an incredible morning, and we moved on to other activities later in the day....

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