Visiting the Leather Tanneries of Fes

Strolling through the labyrinth of the ancient Medina of Fes, UNESCO world heritage site, one of the top attraction not to be missed is the tanners quarter (Check our article what to see in Fes).

Located just before the Andalusian quarter with its mosque and the Es-Sahrij Madrasa, the tanneries of Fes, also known as Chouara, still use the same process used in the 16th century, when Fes established itself as a leader in their production, to treat camel, cow, sheep and goat skins.

Fes, the colorful tanks of the tanneries
Fes, the colourful tanks of the tanneries

As a rule, it is not possible to go around dyeing tanks, but there are different shop rooftops from which you can admire this picturesque place and the many workers intent on tanning leather (there are also tanneries in Marrakech, but those of Fez are more authentic and beautiful)

Each shop is connected to a tannery cooperative, where the profits from sales of leather products are shared out between all who have worked to make the several garments like jackets, bags, belts, hats and also pouffes that you see on display in the shop itself.

Fes, worker in the dyeing tanks
Fes, a worker in the dyeing tanks

Once on the rooftop, the view below you is incredible, and you’ll feel like being in the past. Many small round tanks filled with multicoloured water such as intense red, turmeric yellow or indigo blue are in front of you, all surrounded by the old houses of the Medina and the workers intent on cleaning the skins, softening them, colouring them and finally spread them to dry. 

Fes, a worker intent to color the leather
Fes, a worker intent to colour the leather

Since they use pigeon poo to soften the animal hides, you are given a small sprig of mint to ward off the bad smell. Even though in the end the smell was not that bad as everyone says, we grabbed it anyway… to be…on the safe side.

Fes, view on the tanneries from the shop terrace
Fes, view on the tanneries from the shop terrace

Left the rooftop, the owner of the shop will show you the leather products trying to sell them offering a “good discount”.

We are not a fan of leather garments, and they are not that cheap, so we weren’t about to purchase anything, but if you like the leather or you want to make a gift, this is the right place where to buy them!

 

Need to Know

Tip

The old Medina is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, small squares, and souks, where about 156,000 inhabitants live, so it’s effortless to get lost. Our suggestion is to ask for a local guide to be led throughout the old city without wasting time and get the most out of it.

We spent more than 5 hours enjoying its most exciting attractions, visiting some shops with typical products and tasting local sweets and meat skewers in one of the many tiny restaurants hidden in this fantastic Moroccan gem.


Local Guide

First of all, you can ask directly to your accommodation to arrange the visit. Alternatively, you can purchase a guided tour with one of the web platforms like Viator and GetYourGuide or try to find a local tour agency in the city.

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We made our tour of Fes with an experienced local guide that we highly recommend. His name is Said if you need you can contact him at idrissi.fes@gmail.it and arrange your visit. 


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10 Comments

    • I’ll be there the next week!! Cant wait!! Could you suggest me a good restsurant in the Medina? Thank you!

      • Cristiano Reply

        HI Betty! Around Bab Bou Jeloud you’ll find some good restaurants. Our favourite is the Cafè Clock

    • It’s really cool! I ll put on my bucket list! Do you think August is a good month to visit Fes?

      • Cristiano Reply

        Hi! You can visit Fes al year round, but August is the hottest month. If We could choose, we would avoid summer because of the strong heat.

    • Cristiano Reply

      Hi! It depends on what you choose to do. If you are travelling around Morocco and you don’t have much time, 1 full day is enough. If you are visiting only Fes, you could stay 3/4 days and make some daily trip to Chefchaouen, Meknes, Moulay Idriss and Volubilis.

    • Cristiano Reply

      The old tannery is a highlight of the country! If you go to Morocco, don’t miss the visit!

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