Just hold your nose and get ready for a real hassle
Fez is famous for its leather goods, which are made in one of the three ancient tanneries inside the medina. The largest and oldest is the Chouara tannery, which is over a thousand years old.
You will definitely hear people asking you if you want directions to the tannery. Just remember, that on warm days, you won’t need directions, I assure you can fell the smell from distance.. and there is also the app maps.me and wall signs.
If you want to avoid the hassle make sure you don’t accept any unrequested help.
How to get to the tanneries
If you want to have a look at the tanneries the only way to do it is through one of the shops, there’s no other way. That means you need to “handle” the vendors.
I personally didn’t have any problems I paid 10DHR and no one tried to sell me anything but my partner does look a bit Morrocan, that might have helped a bit 😅.
We went inside the shop, looked at the tanneries, and left the shop without getting so much as a: “Would you like to look?”, let alone a hard sell.
What are the tanneries?
The tanneries are the place where workers transform animal skins into brightly-coloured leathers by soaking them in vats.
The tanneries spread out like a tray of watercolour paints, where cow, sheep, goat and camel hides are taken to be preserved, dyed, and turned into handbags, jackets and wallets that are sold in the surrounding souks.
The idea of looking at animal’s skins is pretty discussing for me as it is. And doesn’t get any better when you know the processes they use.
The skin is first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, pigeon poop, quicklime, salt and water. A method used for over a thousand years.
I’m not sure that nowadays the colours are still derived from natural products like poppy flowers, henna, indigo, or saffron.
What I do know is that the process is absolutely disgusting. Nowadays it’s so easy to find cruelty-free leathers, that doesn’t depend on animal abuse and exploitation.
Vegan leather it’s a leather alternative that doesn’t involve animal products. What this looks like in practice is a synthetic or natural fabric that’s structured and printed to perform a bit like leather.
If you still want to visit the tanneries, be aware that this is the place where most scams append.
How to Avoid the Tannery Scam
Be ready to encounter dozens and dozens of “helpful” locals giving you advice and tips, like: – “that street/place you want to go is closed”; “if you want to see the tannery you need a guide”; “I can show you the way, for free”; “I’ll help you get a good price”. None of these or any variations of it is true.
In order to avoid being scammed, you need to know that older teenagers and young adult men will be loitering in this area. They’re all working together on this scam.
When someone tries to give you unsolicited advise don’t take their offer. Just keep walking. If they are insistent and try to talk to you, just completely ignore them or just say no. If they keep following you, you can threaten to call the police (190 or 112).
Once at the shop, make sure you make it clear you want to view the views and you are not interested in buying anything. Talk with a smile on your face and a firm but polite tone in your voice.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha