The first impression as you walk closer to the tannery or leather souq is the smell. It is horrendous.
My guide gave me a bunch of mint leaves and told me to keep smelling the mint when I got inside.
In Marrakech there was no balcony for tourist viewing, I was brought into the floor of the "factory". This process hasn't changed much in 900 years.
As Abdel explained in the clip above the process starts with
1. Washing the skin
2. Cutting the skin so it can lie flat.
3. Limestone is then put on the skin and after 4/5 hours the wool is taken off.
4. Wool is put on the terrace to dry and the skin is taken to the white lime pool and left there for 15 days. The water and lime is changed every 5 days. This part of the process removes all stains from the skin.
5. The skin is then taken to the wheel to wash for 1 or 2 hours.
6. The skin is put into a pool of water and pigeon poo. The pigeon poo is high in ammonia and softens the skin.
7. The skin is taken to the wheel again for a wash.
8. Time for the dyeing pool. As Abdel explained above, the tannery only uses natural dyes.
9. The skin is then dried and ready to be used to make shoes, clothing, handbags or furniture.
Working in a tannery as you can see from the photos is not an easy job. The men wear very little protective equipment, have uncovered feet and wear no masks or safety goggles. Added to this is 40 degree heat and dangerous fumes.
So what did Ms Treacy purchase you might ask!
Well...eventhough my Marrakech tannery tour was more or less forced on me, I couldn't leave the leather shop behind without making a few purchases. One of these was this pink purse. Goat leather I was told!