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Chouara Tannery, Fez, Morocco

Pigeon droppings

View of the pits used for the first treatment of the raw skins. These white pits are filled with ammonia water made from pigeon droppings.

Caught in the shadows

A lone tanner works in the shade; behind him the crumbling stuccoed walls soak up the sun.

In the shade of the afternoon

View of a tanner working in a pit constructed above a small store overlooking the large square of dyeing pits.

In a corner

View of dyeing pits with a young boy in the background by the stone stairway.

Shades of white

A new supply of raw skins arrives at the tannery. In front of a crumbling wall a tanner sorts the skins for processing. One of them is still recognizably from a cow.

Resting time at sunset

As in old times, no one is rushing home after work. A tanner sitting on the stairs, waiting for a colleague, is enjoying the last rays of sunshine…

A glance at the photographer

A tanner uses his legs to stir the dyeing waters in a pit still shaded from the sun which is beginning to catch the surrounding pits.

Pure Saffron

A man removes a dry skin from a terrace. Its bright yellow colour shines against the ancient walls.

Poppy flowers

A view from behind of a tanner in pits of red dye

Shades of brown

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

Magical wool

A view from behind of a young man throwing wool, shaven from the skins, from the terrace to the ground. Behind him the walls of the city rise in layers of sun and shade.

Mummy

Seen from above, a young boy's legs are reflected in the dying pits. Beside him a pile of skins resembles a mummy.

Home time

A tanner still working in a pit chats to another who is on his way home

Working in a small space

Low rays of sunshine lighting a cramped shed equipped with a washing wheel for the raw skins

Colors of twilight

A man covers the wool for the night

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.