Chouara Tannery is one of the three tanneries in the city of Fez, Morocco. Built-in the 11th century, it is the largest tannery in the city. It is located in the Fes el Bali, the oldest medina quarter of the city, near the Saffarin Madrasa along the river.
Visiting the ancient Tannery of Fes in Morocco offers such a unique experience into the natural process of producing leather. The process has not changed since the medieval times and requires the hides (cow, camel, goat and sheepskin) to be soaked in quicklime, water, salt and cow's urine. This helps to soften the skin and get rid of any leftover hair and fat on the skins, before being transferred into the water.
The hides are cleaned with the help of 'smoothing' pigeon faeces.
Workers stand barefoot in vats and knead the skins with their feet, to soften them up, which requires great strength and stamina.
Natural flowers and plants are added and then mixed with water to obtain the beautiful colours. Mint, for example, is used to achieve a green colour; cedarwood for brown; henna for orange; saffron for yellow; indigo for blue; and poppy flowers for red.
Due to the mix of animal faeces, there will be strong pungent smell upon your visit. Mint is provided by some of the viewing points but be sure to be clear and firm, if you do not want to purchase this.
Scams to Avoid
As there are many shop owners in competition with one another, there are many scams that make tourists very vulnerable during their visit.
Visiting the shops - The owners/workers will try usher you up winding staircases, to be shown thousands of bags and shoes to buy. Do not worry about saying no, or potentially hurting someone's feelings. Be firm and stand your ground and your message will be clearly understood.
If you hear any the following comments, ignore and politely decline.
" Street is closed"
"Shop is closed"
" Let me show you the way"
"I can provide you with the cheapest price"
" We have the best view of the tannery"
You have the freedom to visit any shop/tannery and there are no rules on how long you can/cannot stay. This is tactic is commonly used a lot, to move tourists in and out of the medina, so keep this in mind when visiting.
I hope you've been able to take away some tips from this post ready for your trip to Morocco.
See you guys in the next post.