Tanneries of Fez – Leather Goods Just Like Mom Used to Make
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 nearby.
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 and buying.