“Dirty Jobs” – The Fes Episode

Working at a Tannery in Fes, Morocco is one of the most difficult jobs imaginable for this Southern California girl.  It is back-breaking, dirty and smelly, but one of the best paying, working-class jobs in Fes.  The men working here, do so to better provide for their family.  For this,  I have the utmost respect. Their pay is about  300 Dirham per day which equates to approximately $35 U.S. Dollars.

Large stacks of raw skin arrive on the backs of the amazing little donkeys I described in my last post.  I won’t go into great detail about the process other than to note that a solution made with  “pigeon excrement” ( a natural form of ammonia) and some other natural ingredients are what you see in the white vats above and my understanding is this solution acts as cleaning mechanism for the raw hides.  The other vats you see are the colors used for dyeing the skins.  I hope to come back and add the origin of each color once I have a better internet connection.  All of the pigments and processing ingredients come from natural sources.  They “DO NOT” use dangerous chemicals.

“Ignorance is Bliss” for me when it come to things like this but I force myself outside of my comfort range to make sure that my sense of reality remains in check.  It is often a source of conflict for me.   I admit I am a omnivore and this will likely not change for me, but as a person that also loves animals, it is important that I make choices to support ethical treatment.  It is not difficult for me to understand why people choose to be vegetarians and I can appreciate the grounds for their decision.

No animal is killed in Morocco for its hide.  The skin is a by-product with nothing wasted in this practical society.  I will also note that I am told there are no native Moroccans that are vegetarians.  My Medina guide, Hassan, told me that eating meat is a fundamental part of Moroccan culture.  I have no means to confirm this statement but based on my experience so far;  I tend to believe it; shy of it being absolute of course.  There are however, many people living in Morocco that have immigrated here from various parts of Europe; the largest numbers being French.  It is conceivable that there vegetarians among them but it would make for few choices eating out.

I left the Tannery a little nauseated and a bit more knowledgeable about the process used to make leather.   I am glad I forced my boundaries to experience this.  With each day I spend here, my appreciation for the Moroccan people  grows.  Six days in to this journey, I can say with confidence that this is one of the best trips of my life.

I end this post listening to the afternoon Call to Prayer.  It is a sound I do not tire of hearing.  It is not an inconvenience;  as has been expressed in tourist blogs.  It is the way of the people here — accept it and appreciate it as part of your learning experience when traveling.  I do not have the share the same beliefs nor do I agree with many of them, but I respect the ritual and what it means for them.   It speaks to the dedication of  the peaceful Muslim people.

Stayed tuned for a future post on this subject…

Go in peace…

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