Fez tannery was interestingly cool and horrific all at the same time. I should have known how bad it would be as upon entering you are given a snippet of mint to hold up to your nose because the smell is so bad. And how could it not be…..the start of the tanning process begins with the collection and sorting of raw animal skins. The types of animal skins include: sheep skin, goat skin, camel skin, and cow skin with the best quality leather coming from goat and camel skins. These skins are soaked for two to three days in large specialty vats that contain a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This mixture will loosen excess fat, flesh, and hair that remain on the skins. Once the soaking duration is done, tanners then scrap away excess hair fibers and fat in order to prepare the skins for dyeing. Once the skins have been cleaned, they are laid out to dry on the surrounding rooftop terraces. Once dried, the skins are taken to a different set of vats where they are washed and soaked in a mixture of water and pigeon poop in order to make the skins supple and soft. Pigeon poop contains ammonia that acts as a softening agent. The tanner then uses his bare feet to knead the skins for up to three hours to achieve the desired softness.  All of this cow urine, quicklime, pigeon poop and raw animal skins in 100 degree heat is no wonder why the smell is almost unbearable. This is a very labor intensive process and each worker gets paid solely based on the number of skins he produces which usually adds up to about $2 a day. It’s almost unfathomable that anyone would work there. On the flipside, some of the most beautiful products are crafted from this leather which is an additional source of income for the community. And although there are more modern and faster ways to currently process the leather, as with most things in Morocco, they are being done as they have for centuries and will probably be done this way for centures to come. I purchased a beautiful bag that I will cherish always as I know the work that went into it. Definitely worth a visit.

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