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Chouara Tannery, Fez, Morocco

Dripping skins

Skins still dripping with red dye are draped over a wooden beam

Youth

A teenager working and learning. Behind him a young boy is running between the pits

Scrapping skins

Large knife in hand, a tanner examines the skin before scraping it; the sun catches the walls behind and lights up the skin.

Red

A tanner, seen from above, climbs from a pit; his legs and arms are still dripping with poppy flower dye whose colour blends with the sunlight

Fuchsia

A tanner drapes a pink skin over the pit wall as he scrapes it

Along the pits

Young boy carrying dry skins and guiding a donkey towards the store. The long sides of the pits are full of boys in their first year of studying at the tannery school

New generation

A meeting of light, colors, material, animal and human life as a young boy learns the tanning tradition.

Balance

On the way to the dyeing pits

Red dyer pit

Arms and legs working together to remove the skins from the dyeing pit.

Tool grinding

View from above of a young boy sharpening his knife

Combining generations

A boy scrapes skins next to a pit where a man is working, immersed in red dye

Last touch

A man spreads a bright yellow skin on straw to dry, seen from above in bright sunshine

Shaded reds

Seen from above a tanner throws skins into a pit of red dye, split into light and shade by the strong sun

See-saw

Reflections in the dyeing pits as men, seen from above, work at sunset

Drip dry

A tanner lifts heavy wet skins from a pit

Back to Middle Ages ! Views of the traditional work of the tanners, whose practices have remained unchanged since the 14th century, at the Chouara tannery. It is the largest of the four ancient tanneries still in existence in the medina of Fez and is composed of numerous dried-earth pits where raw skins are treated, pounded, scraped and dyed. Tanners work in vats filled with various coloured liquid dyes derived from plant sources. Colours change every two weeks, poppy flower for red, mint for green, indigo for blue, chedar tree for brown and saffron for yellow.