I visited Marraketch leather tannery in April 2016.  So before I “celebrate” the first year anniversary, the time has come to post my images from this very interesting experience.  I describe it as interesting, because I read what many tourists had to say which was less than complimentary. There were comments about smells, granted the smell is not great, but come early in the morning and there is hardly any smell.  Others comments about “guides” who force you to pay  $20 for their visit.  Oh well, that is true, but I have paid similar sums in other places around the world. Furthermore, in many societies that are somewhat less organized or advanced, one may witness such phenomenon.  One can choose whether to enjoy, or be miserable.  I wanted to see and photograph, and thus had a great time, and what I paid was so minuscule relative to the joy derived – the guide was able to buy food for his family and  I have a memory to cherish.

Marraketch tannery is a home to 60 families who own their “pits” for generations. Approximately, half of the families are local, and the remainder are from the Atlas Mountains.  The locals use small animals such as goats and sheep, giving them thinner leather, while the mountaineers use larger animals such as cows and camel resulting in thicker leather .

The traditional process, begins with soaking the skins in a fermented solution of pigeon poo, also known as kaka- de- pigeon, and tannery waste known as iferd. The hide ferments in the iferd 3-6 days (depends on the season) before they are squeezed out and left to dry. Hair is scraped off before the skins go into a pit of lime and argan-kernel ash for a lengthy period of up to 30 days, working to remove any remaining flesh and hair to prepare the skin for the tanning products. After being washed, the skins spend 24 hours in a Qasriya, a round pit of more pigeon poo and water. At this stage the skin becomes thinner and stretchier.

The final step in the process is the actual tanning. The skins are scraped with pottery shards and beaten with alum, oil and water in preparation to receive the dye. Traditional tanners use plants to dye their leather – that is, roots, bark, seeds and fruits. The solution depends on the type of hide used – cow, camel, goat, sheep –  and the color the leather will be dyed.

My next post will be dedicated to the leather Bourse which is another story altogether.













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