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Spotted on Moroccan Rooftops: Is It a Giant Paint Palette or a Tannery?

The Chouara Tannery in Fes produces leather and is nestled between Moroccan rooftops. Although the process dates back to the medieval time, as the photographer Joe Brnobic who took the photos states, the site is quite a mesmerizing one.

Moroccan leather is shipped around the world, and is an important factor of the local economy. Brnobic even got a chance to speak to some of the workers and learn a little bit about the tannery.

“In Fes there are literally hundreds of leather goods stores selling everything that can be made from leather,” he says.

He continues on to the explain the process, “First the leather is soaked in white stone vessels which are filled with the horrible smelling mixture of cow urine, pigeon feces, quick lime (calcium oxide) and salt water, in order to soften tough leather and to make it more absorbent to dyes.”

Although it looks enthralling, the stench can be overwhelming to the workers, as Brnobic continues on to explain, “The smells in the tannery can be overwhelming to some people, so at the entrance of the tannery their employees give them fresh mint leaves to stuff them in their sensitive noses.”

After that, the workers transfer the leathers into brown stone containers that are full with dissolved dyes of several vibrant colors.

“When dyes are fully absorbed, the leather is dried in the sun and exported around the country and the world. Dyes are made from natural materials such as poppy, indigo, henna, saffron and pomegranates.”

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