Morocco or The Kingdom of Morocco as it is officially known, is an Arab country located in North Africa with an average population of 35 million, is famous for hosting in its lands part of the Sahara desert, the imposing mosques, Old alleys full of culture and markets full of color, aroma and flavor. But also leather and its production is one of the raw materials that makes Morocco famous nationally and internationally.
The textile industry, and leather as part of it, is the third most important in the country, generating at least 15% of industrial production and 21% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) providing the opportunity to generate excellent sources for the country’s economy, converting to Moroccan leather is one of the most exported items.
The process of tanning leather in this country is still completely manual, which is believed to have undergone no major changes since the middle ages, which has transcended from generation to generation and which is said to be the hardest trade in all of Morocco.
Fez and Tetouan are two of the cities where the skins are tanned and dyed the most, being Fez especially famous for the four tanneries that make life there, but it is the one of Chouwara the most popular thanks to the more than 1000 years that it has in operation.
Although the tanners’ quarter has become an almost obligatory walk for tourists, many describe that it is not especially a very pleasant journey, as the process of tanning the skins so handcrafted gives these places an almost unbearable smell in which gas masks and mint branches are distributed to visitors that even with difficulty are able to mitigate odors.
Treatment of the Skins.
Lamb, ox, goat, dromedary and camel are the animal skins that are worked in Morocco, once the skin is separated from the meat, begins the arduous work to convert them into leathers that will later be used in bags, wallets, belts, footwear and other parts sold on the premises of the picturesque markets of the cities.
The spaces of the tanneries are divided into large rustic stone tubs in which you can see water of different colors thanks to the natural additives that are used. The first of these will be pigeon feces, which contains ammonia and gives softness to the leather, ashes and cow urine to remove any residues that may arise and the smell of decomposition.
"At the moment in Morocco a tour is offered to tourists through the most famous curities as part of its cultural legacy"
Once this process is carried out the tubs are painted natural color to pigment the skins thanks to the use of plants, flowers and woods; the green color is obtained thanks to mint, red by the action of poppy, blue by indigo, black by khol, saffron gives yellow tones, as well as orange henna and finally the wood, cedar and henna will give it brown tones, without leaving aside the olive oil to provide the bright effect.
For the skin curing procedure takes 35 days and to give them color at least 20 days more, in which no chemicals or machinery is used and which is also completely ecological, since the water is reused as many times as possible, to contribute to the environment but in turn this gives softness to the skins.
The Moroccan man who is in charge of this office is the only protagonist, in addition to the natural elements mentioned above, which intervenes in this 100% manual task which requires about three hours a day to knead the skins with their bare feet and the transfer of each skin cloth to the roofs of the surrounding houses for drying or in the change of tubs for coloring.
It is this care that has given the popularity to the Moroccan leather and all the composite products of this substrate and which in turn has led the Moroccan government to create a series of legalities through the years that allow to preserve this tradition and value within and outside the borders the exhausting work.
One example is that in 2001 restrictions on the export of leather (which had been set the previous year, where no leather or raw hides could be exported) were removed and an export tariff of up to 25 per cent was set, but maintaining the ban to export Wet Blue skins, which are those that are treated under the action of chemical agents.
It is thus that the leather of Moroccan origin will certainly be wherever this absolute synonym of tradition and quality.
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