"Tanneries" Morocco Things to Do Tip by traveldave

Morocco Things to Do: 725 reviews and 1,654 photos


One of the most popular sights in Fez is the tanneries located in the leather souq. The tanneries date back nine centuries and are the oldest in the world. In the fifteenth century, there were about 200 tanneries in Fez; nowadays, there are only two. The methods used in tanning hides are the same ones used for centuries, and no modern equipment or processes are employed. Visitors can observe the tanning process from the terraces of leather shops which surround the tanneries.

The hides of goats, sheep, and cattle are processed at the tanneries to be made into quality leather goods, such as bags, coats, shoes, and other items. After observing the tanning process, visitors can visit the leather souq and perhaps buy some souvenirs.

After the hair and flesh has been removed from the hides, they are soaked in one of the numerous circular stone vats which resemble a large honeycomb from above. The first step is to soak the hides in vats containing an acidic liquid which contains pigeon guano, cow's urine, and acid. This makes the hides soft and supple. The next step is to dye the prepared hides. This is done in vats containing dyes made from all-natural materials, such as henna, saffron, or mint. Workers stamp the hides with their feet to ensure that they are well soaked. After dyeing, the final process is to dry the hides on the roof of the leather souq.

The workers perform their jobs in terrible stench and heat, and they only earn about $7.50 per day. In addition, their arms and lower legs are permanently stained from a lifetime of working in the dyes.

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  • Updated Jan 15, 2012
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