Moroccan Leather Goods – Tanneries of Fez
One of the highlights of a recent trip to Morocco was a visit to the infamous tanneries of Fez. If Morocco
is famous for its leather goods, it owes its reputation to the young men who – day after day – selflessly
work in tanneries like this one, using the same methods today that were used centuries before. It is an experience
for the senses (especially the sense of smell) and one that should not be missed!
Reams of cow hide are treated in huge vats of dyes – whose main active ingredient just happens to be pigeon droppings.
To say it’s a strong smell is an understatement. As fascinating as this process is, this trip is not for the faint of
heart or stomach! What’s even more impressive, are the young craftsmen who repeatedly hop into these vats of colored
dye and guano as they saturate the cow hide before taking out the leather and spreading it out on the flat rooftops
From above the view of the men stamping the skins in the circles of color, or spreading out the vivid, yellow saffron
dye, is fascinating. A walk at ground level will be something quite different altogether as you come face to face with
knife wielding workers softening the leather and get a whole new perspective on hard work.
The tanneries of Fez are located nearby the Karaouine Mosque. Despite the odor – which has brought even the toughest
visitors to their knee – the tanneries have become one of Fez’ most popular attractions. You’ll certainly earn your
bragging rights by making it through a visit. Don’t forget your camera (and a handkerchief).
Visitors can climb to any one of the terraces belonging to the surrounding leather shops that look down on the tanners’
yard, honeycombed with vats of dye and piled with skins.
Afterwards you can visit any number of leather shops and see for yourself the product of such hard work. You’re not
obligated to purchase anything by any means, but don’t be surprised if even after a quick glance at a merchant’s goods,
you find yourself ushered into a showroom, offered a cold drink and snacks and suddenly sucked into a world of bartering