In Morocco the process of turning animal hide into soft leather is a craft that goes back thousands of years and that has changed very little since medieval times. The tanneries in the medina are located away from the residential quarters due to the foul odors produced by the pigeon feces and cow urine used to soften the hides. We went up to the terrace of a leather shop to view the workers traversing between the vats of softening hide (the grey vats) and the ones containing vegetable dye. The smell is so strong that a sprig of mint (Moroccan air freshener) is given to all visitors to hold to the nose to help combat the smells.
Watching the tanning process was an amazing experience but also a distressing sight. I can’t even imagine the health risks these craftsmen are exposed to by hopping into the vats, knee-deep in the stinky solution and dye. It is brutal work done under horrid conditions.