During today’s adventure around the Medina of Fez I learned quite a bit. Mainly, the textiles in this area are all handcrafted. My tour guide was obviously in cahoots with the shop owners because after each mini presentation the owner and the guide worked their asses off trying to get me to purchase their wares for double what they were being sold for by the vendors on the street.
At the first stop I learned about the looms. The intricately designed rugs are handmade by women and can take anywhere from 1 month to a year. The patterned ones without design are made by men on the looms. The men use the looms because, apparently, “It is too difficult for a woman, that is man’s work.”
The rugs are made from cotton, silk, and/or camel hair. Next is the process of dying the threads.
Next, we visited the tannery. All the leather goods are also made by hand with all natural ingredients. As we entered the tannery we were given a sprig of mint. We didn’t know what it was for until our guide told us it was for the smell. As we walked up a winding staircase I started praying that there wasn’t going to be skinned cows ahead. But, no that was not what we were smelling. It was from the poop. Want to know how they make the leather softer? Yup, you guessed it, pigeon poop. The poop has a natural ammonia as well. The staircase led us to the top of the tannery. Below we could see the men hard at work creating the color to dye the leather. These are the same techniques and pits that have been used since the 11th century.
The owner of the tannery showed us some of their leather goods and explained how they leave their items without labels so, “The big designers can come and buy them and use their own label.”
At both places they were instant that I bought something. I had to explain that, one, I didn’t have any luggage, and two, I don’t have a home to ship it to…I also don’t wear leather. I did buy myself a gandora because they day before I had brought my daughter something to wear as well.
By the time we made it back to our room I was ready to shower and finally put on some non-hand washed clothes because the smell of the tannery was sticking to my skin.
I learned so much and seeing the strenuous process it takes to complete these textiles was truly amazing.