Natural Goat Leather Tanning Process in Northern Afghanistan

The town of Khulm (former Tash Kurgan) in Balkh Province, Northern Afghanistan, is the leather tanning capital of Afghanistan. Even skins from Kandahar, Southern Afghanistan, are brought here for tanning. The tanning skills are passed on from generation to generation. The tanneries in Khulm are mostly organized in small cooperatives. The war in Afghanistan has not passed the tanning craft without traces and in many terms the old tanning and leather processing traditions are just in the process of being revived again. Khulm used to be an important center on the silk roads leading from Central Asia to Europe. It was famous for its covered bazaar that was destroyed in the 1980s.

Khulm is located 60 km east of Mazar-i Sharif one-third of the way to Kunduz. Formerly known as Tash Kurgan (Uzbek: "stone mausoleum"), the town's name was changed to Khulm during the Pashtunisation of northern Afghanistan by the central government headed by Minister of the Interior, Wazir Mohammad Gul Khan.

 

Under dry and warm conditions in the summer the natural tanning process takes only about two weeks. In the winter though, when it is humid and cold the tanning process can take up to five weeks. Gundara mainly uses skins produced in winter, as the quality of winter skins is better than in the summer.

Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 1


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 1
The skins stay in a base consisting of water, salt & animal fat that is still sticking to the skins


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 2


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 2
Flesh is being scraped of the skin for the first time


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 3


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 3
The skins stay in a base consisting of water & lime


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 4


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 4
Flesh is being scraped of the skin again


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 5


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 5
The skins stay in a base consisting of water & pidgin dung


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 5


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 5
The skins stay in a base consisting of water & pidgin dung


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 7


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 7
The skins then stay in a base consisting of water, pomegranate peal & rhubarb roots


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 8


Gundara - Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 8
It's almost ready


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 9


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 9
Scraping the skin for a last time


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 9


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 9
After some drying time, flesh is being scraped of the skin with a different tool


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 10


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan - step 10
The leather shall then dry for some time...


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan


Leather tanning in Khulm, Northern Afghanistan
That's it!