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The medieval tanneries are at once beautiful, for their ancient dyeing vats of reds, yellows, and blues, and unforgettable, for the nauseating smell of rotting animal flesh on curing sheep, goat, cow, and camel skins. The terrace overlooking the dyeing vats is high enough to escape the place's full fetid power and get a spectacular view over the multicolor vats. Absorb both the process and the finished product at No. 2 Chouara Lablida, just past Rue Mechatine (named for the combs made from animals' horns): the store is filled with leather goods of all kinds, all of which smell terrific. One of the shopkeepers will explain to you what's going on in the tanneries below -- how the skins are placed successively in saline solution, lime, pigeon droppings, and then any of several natural dyes: antimony for black, poppies for red, saffron for yellow, mint for green, and indigo for blue. Barefoot workers in shorts pick up skins from the bottoms of the dyeing vats with their feet, then work them manually. Though this may look like the world's least desirable job, the work is actually very well paid and somewhat in demand. Studies on tannery workers' health have shown that tanners live, if anything, longer and healthier lives than workers in most other collectives. This might be because they need to be fit to do the work in the first place; or perhaps the foul-smelling liquids contain some as-yet-undefined curative properties.

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Additional Photos by Oscar Lopez (olopez) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 221 W: 59 N: 485] (4959)
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