Friday, February 20, 2015

A bright fake smile

Friday, February 20, 2015


He gave her a bright fake smile; so much of life was a putting off of unhappiness for another time. Nothing was ever lost by delay. He had a dim idea that perhaps if one delayed long enough, things were taken out of one's hands altogether by death. 

~ Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter, 1948

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The 11th Century Chouara Tannery of Fez

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From that souk walled with floor-to-ceiling shelves of everything leather, I could see the Chouara tanneries of Fes el-Bali where raw hides are stretched, cured, preserved, dyed, and transformed into the bags and jackets that surrounded me. The tourists, abuzz with excitement at the unbelievably cheap prices of those goods, barely looked at the workers stomping around in a honeycomb of earthen pits, each filled with liquid of different colors. The pestering American-accented voice of the Moroccan man dogging us to make a purchase was more disturbing than the fetid stench that permeated the room from the tanneries below.  


The Chouara tanneries of the old medina of Fez dates back to the 11th century, and the tanning process has hardly changed since.  The skins of camels, cows, goats, and sheep are first soaked in water mixed with cow urine, pigeon droppings, quicklime, and salt. 


Once the skins are thoroughly steep in the mixture, they are laid out to dry.


After drying, the skins are immersed in the colored stone wells, where the skins are dyed in the natural colors of indigo, mint, poppy, henna, pomegranates, and turmeric.


It is hard to believe that such place exists until today and that it continues to function as it did thousands of years ago, yet it does. It makes me wonder whether preserving such place—where workers toil in substandard conditions--is worth it.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The promise of rest

Wednesday, February 4, 2015



…I shut my eyes and she was again the same as she used to be: she was the hiss of steam, the clink of a cup, she was a certain hour of the night and the promise of rest.

~ Graham Greene, The Quiet American, 1955
 
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