Leather work in Morocco: The story of a tradtion


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The tannery activity known for centuries and has developed time Amohades including Marrakech and Fez. It is the first operation In the treatment of cooked before shaping with the goal of producing various items such as cushions, handbags etc. ... Although newer techniques have emerged, the tannery are still traditional in most old Moroccan city like Fez or Marrakech, the process is the oldest tanning vegetable skins.


this is done primarily using natural plant products: mimosa bark, cork bark, bark of grenadine, takaout, bran, flour, pigeon droppings, virgin oil, ... with specific properties for transform a raw hide into finished leather. Currently, the skins are mostly treated with chromium. This process used successfully since the beginning of the last century gives the leather very interesting properties. The chrome-tanned leather quickly took a important role in the production of leather for shoe uppers. The tanneries have a particularly severe impact on water quality, if their releases are flushed down the drain without treatment. They pour in Indeed a large amount of biodegradable products (proteins, fats) but also difficult to degrade waste and toxic products, the most serious is chromium used for very extended tanning hides.


The craftsmanship is a branch of human activity based on the tool as the main instrument using human energy. The tannery particular is one of the most important activities in crafts traditional Moroccan. This importance is that Morocco has always been a great cattle country and its forests provide artisans tanning and dyes.

Among the main handicraft centers in the tannery, quoting Marrakech Beni Mellal, Rabat. Fez is the center of the largest and most famous. The skin treated by small-scale tanneries are of domestic origin. The information is being collected by buyers who travel the street and souks raw hides are transported to urban markets where they are purchased either by supply cooperatives or by the artisans tanners. The tanneries in Fes are divided into different districts. But they are still in the immediate vicinity of water sources. It is essential that water flow is constant user-friendly for two reasons: it supplying the various basins in which the tanners, the dip skins during their preparations and ensure the discharge of waste derived from them.


A tannery area essentially includes discovery of dimensions variable depending on the size of the tannery. It takes many forms. The area of ​​the tannery is dug ponds used for brushing and rinse the skins and pits for the baths in which they stay.

The preparation of the skin involves a series of complicated operations. It requires a long duration varying with the type of skin we have to treated. There are three skin types: sheep (sheep), bovine (cow) and caprine (goat).moroccan sandals, flip flops and slippers (babouch) The duration of each operation changes with the seasons. The skins that require the most careful preparations are those of goats. They are bought in the souk, made to the tannery coated with hair, but they can be fresh or salty. In the first case, they are purchased out of the slaughter and salting is done at the tannery. The skins are salted on both sides, extensive sunlight and the layer of salt is applied by rubbing vigorously with the hand to facilitate penetration. The salt melts is replaced by a new layer, the operation lasts three to four days.

When the skins are dry, they bend over backwards and stacked in either a corner of the tannery, is in stores workshops. If, however, they were bought in the souk after salting and drying, the stores directly. The first operation performed for the latter is the lavage.Cette step is to put the skins soaking in, that is to say in a bath designed to remove impurities, the salt used in the early to preserve them, and also to make them grow and swell slightly. The duration of the bath depends on the season, a night in summer to four days in winter cold weather. After washing, goat skins are ready to undergo the second stage of the dye.

The dyeing operation must be done thoroughly and carefully to avoid to miss any part, it lasts two to three hours. After which the spend in the skin that épileur with a knife he holds two hands, pluck the hairs from the fleece stretched over a pole leaning against the wall. This work of plucking is done in special facilities arranged around the core area. Gradually, as this operation continues, he takes and drags up the part of already shaved skin, which just hang from the wall to the skin and hair on perche.Les, are immersed lime in ponds filled with water containing lime and lime active and quicklime. The boss tanner should monitor closely the duration of these baths. Often, especially in summer, it will be up at night to to remove the skin to remove hair.


The skins become crisp pass lavage.Le wash is done in two ways: one modern and one traditional.

1 - tanners skin diving in an electrical machine that "makes washing for a while.

2 - tanning hides spread out in river water for gradually purged lime that has soaked in the bath earlier. They first undergo a pre-wash for two hours in the first basin and are then thrown into a second where a deeper team of two or three workers to trample down methodically, punctuating their efforts with a characteristic melody. They are leaning forward and resting their arms on the edge of the basin. They immerse their feet in rhythm in the skin and paw the ground beneath their feet like impatient horses. Evacuate their skin impurities and they retained traces of lime, all flowing with water and then constantly renewed. This takes about three hours. It is tiring.


At the end of the pool or the machine, the skins are acted bathroom successive and different in the pits.

- The bath of dung of wild pigeons. The skins stay there four to eight days.

- The bath of sound. It occurs only in the same pit after cleaning. The skins remain there for 10 to 15 days in summer. It must be very monitored because the skins that have been neglected is punctured quickly.

After drying the skin, workers carry out dyeing. This practiced by the tanners themselves on the terraces. Shades used are extremely limited. The colors most Frequent tanners were those of babouches. the paint small jets on the skin and extend over the entire surface side flower rubbing of the hand to make it penetrate, then the skins are extended on straw in the sun.

After dyeing and drying, start the successive operations softening leather, and smoothing with a tool consisting of a blade convex on an iron rod of wood which is assembled in a kind of rainbow wood.

The skin is extended along curved and the worker is working constantly applying the bow against his chest made of wood. The right hand he holds the iron handle and left the skin that tends to soften. Smoothing flesh side is then, he practiced graining side flower on a small dome clay. And tanned skin, rendered both flexible and durable can be delivered for sale. These are the artisans who buy this babouchiers type of leather for the manufacture of traditional slippers. It can also manufacture other items: bags, cushions, door money.