the picturesque tanneries of Fes

Strolling through  the labyrinth of the ancient Fes Medina, UNESCO world heritage site, one of the top attraction not to be missed is the tanners quarter.

Located just before the Andalusian quarter with its mosque and the Es-Sahrij medersa, 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 colorful 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.

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 as jackets, bags, belts, hats and also poufs that you see on display in the shop itself.

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

Once on the rooftop, the view below you is incredible, you’ll feel like being in the past: many small round tanks filled with multicolored water such as intense red, turmeric yellow or indigo blue surrounded by the old houses of the Medina and the workers intent to clean the skins, soften them, color them and finally spread them to dry.

Fes, worker intent to color the leather
Fes, worker intents to color the leather

Obviously, since they use pigeon poo to soften the animal hides, you are given a small sprig of mint to ward off the bad smell. To be honest, even though in the end was not that bad as everyone says, we grabbed it anyway …just 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 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 just want to make a gift, this is the right place where to buy them!

 

Need to Know

Tip: the old Medina is really a labyrinth of narrow alleys, small squares and souks, where about 156,000 inhabitants live, so it’s really easy 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 interesting attractions, visiting some shops with typical products and obviously tasting local sweets and meat skewers in one of the many tiny restaurants hidden in this amazing moroccan gem.

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 platform like getyourguide and viator or try to find a local tour agency in the city. 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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