Tanneries in Fes

Working in the hides industry is one of the worst job on earth. The chemicals which are used to tan and dye the skins are very dangerous and polluting materials, and the tanning has always be a very dirty and polluting exercise, even when bleaches and dyes were natural and not artificial substances.
The Moroccan leather handicrafts are well known and appreciated all over the world, and the hides industry is flourishing. They treat goat, sheep, camel skins besides, naturally, leather. The job is still often done in a quite primitive way, and tanneries in Marrakech and Fes are not only a tourist attraction
(not yet, at least), but a daily hell for people working there. We've seen a tannery courtyard in Fes. The courtyard is not easily accessible from the Medina alleys, but can be seen from hig terraces of the buildings surrounding it. We were brought to see the tanning and dyeing basins during a visit to a big leather shop (no, it was not by chance). The sight when you lean over the terrace rim is really impressive. The experience recalled to my memory the day I was overlooking the "Ghats" leading to the Ganges river in Varanasi, India.  I think somehow Fes Medina is to me the nearest thing to Varanasi old town maze of alleys leading to the Ganges. OK. Back to Fes. What I saw you can just imagine looking at the pics, what I felt you can't. Tourists are given a whole bunch of fresh mint leaves to be kept over the nose in order not to smell the rotten meat stench mixed with the chemical bleaches which take your nostrils away while looking at the scene. I sneaked upstairs without mint, alone, while the others were tortured by the leather vendors inside the shop in the normal "please buy something" exercise.I did not intend to excape my good tourist duties (my wife was there anyway), but only to get better photos. Well, I didn't feel sick and my lungs are alright, but I admit that some mint leaves would have helped...




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Dyeing pots


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White pots are for tanning and
dyeing in light colours.


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The wool cut out from
skins


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A global view, showing
Fes Medina roofs


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On the upper right part
there are drying skins




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