Amusing Planet website describes the work under the sun and in the stone vessels of the tanneries in Fez, Morocco, as follows:
”(…) a vast range of dyes and various liquids spread out like a tray of watercolors. Dozens of men, many standing waist deep in dyes, work under the hot sun tending to the hides that remain soaked in the vessels. The tanneries processes the hides of cows, sheep, goats and camels, turning them into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, and slippers. This is all achieved manually, without the need for modern machinery, and the process has barely changed since medieval times”
The article proceeds with the naming of the soaking agents:
”..a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This caustic mixture helps to break down the tough leather, loosen excess fat, flesh, and hair that remain on them. The hides are soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibers and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. The hides are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon poop. Pigeon poop contains ammonia that acts as softening agents that allows the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye. The tanner uses his bare feet to knead the hides for up to three hours to achieve the desired softness.”
The odour is unbearable.
Houses and buildings where people live, have their windows opened on the vapours of soaking agents and leather goods shop assistants just smell this, day after day. Yet, adorably kind.Workers breathe the unthinkable under the scorching sun, work barehand-barefeet in what becomes an ammonia solution and corrosive, skin bending, smoothing agents.
Unbearable is seeing kids on the stone vessels trying to learn the job.
The tanneries are abodes where life span can only shrink with consequent dreams undreamt.
One of the hardest and saddest places to cope with.
photos: Beatrice De Filippis