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.