In Fez, it was cool to note that there was a thriving system of guilds that helped the medina to operate. Artisans were organized together from many fields including pottery and ceramics, woodcarving, coppersmithing, and weaving. One of our pit stops was for leather production at a famous tannery in Fez.
As we climbed the winding steps to the top of the establishment, I discovered how pungent a tannery actually smelled. We were given small bunches of mint leaves to hold to our noses as a kind of personal deodorizer. The smell came from a mixture of chemicals, hide and leather, and the curing process (urine and pigeon poop).
At the top we met one of the producers, a salesman of sorts, who gave us his spiel of the general process of leather production in a remarkably diverse Texan accent riddled with “y’alls”, drawls, and a twang. Looking down into the production yard we could see many baths of varying colors (quite awesome to see) containing all natural chemicals which were used to dye the leather. Some chemicals include saffron which is used as a yellow dye, poppyseed for red, henna for brown, and indigo for blue.
And in the end, there are a bunch of leather goods produced (purses, wallets, coats, shoes,etc.) which we consumers purchase!