There are hundreds of tanneries behind the Magra Al-Oyoun wall in south Cairo, built by Sultan Salah Al-Din Al-Ayubi, the founder of Ayyubid Egypt in 1169. Two industries coexist in the tanneries of Cairo: the production of gelatin and leather, both from the treatment of animal skins. The tannereis have been around for hundreds of years. over 500 tanneries, 160 glue factories and 350 service shops stocking chemicals, carpenters, dyes and paints are located behind the Magra Al-Oyoun wall in south Cairo. More than 20,000 workers toil in the tanneries, mostly in jobs inherited from their parents and grandparents.
Thousands of workers in Cairo’s leather tanneries interact dangerous chemicals that pose significant health risks. The Egyptian industry fails to provide them with adequate gear that protect them respiratory and intestinal diseases from prolonged exposure to chromium and other harmful substances.
This photo essay provides an intimate look at the conditions under which they work in the industrial area behind the Magra A-Oyoun wall in South Cairo. Some of the subjects are family members who have inherited their jobs from parents and grandparents in an area of Cairo dating to the Sultan Salah Al-Din Al-Ayubi, the founder of Ayyubid Egypt in 1169.