The Tanneries of Fez
Morocco is a land of wonder and distinct heritage. One of many attractions to see in morocco is the Tanneries of fez located in the old town more specifically in the oldest Medina quarter of the city called Fes el-Bali. Tanning in Fez and the process behind this tradition that has withstood the test of time. The city of fez is known for its quality leather products and contains three of the most ancient tanneries the largest being Chouara tannery.
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The structure of the Tanneries
The worldwide famous tanneries Fez are composed of several stone vessels neatly built side by side in the heart of Fes el-Bali with several balconies overseeing the cauldrons from above. A multitude of hides such as goat, sheep, cow, camel, and many more all processed by hand through manual labor forming a more than 1000 years tradition of true labor of love, passion, and pride. Discover more with our Morocco vacation packages.
From Soaking the Hides to dye in the Tanneries
The tanning process in Fez has remained practically untouched continuing on the steps of their forefathers.
The first step of this classic method is soaking the hides in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This breaks down the tough leather and loosens it up removing the excess hair and fat in the process. The soaking process goes on for three days then the hides are soaked in a new set of vats containing a concussion of mixed water and pigeon fesses which contains ammonia that softens the hide making it both flexible and absorbent to the dyes. The kneading is performed by the vigorous movement of the tanner’s bare legs until it reaches the required smooth and malleable composition.
The second phase is dying pastes. Only natural substances are used to create the vibrant, explosive, and diverse colors of the different dyes. The now lean hides are submerged in death pits. Different ingredients in nature are used to form these sharp, bright, and lively dyes such as the poppy flower for passionate red, saffron for yellow, Cedarwood for rustic brown, and much other nature sourced colors.
Last but not least is the drying stage. Once the leather has absorbed the colors and is fully dyed they are taken under the crisp Morocco sun to dry up. The finished leather is then used to manufacture many leather accessories such as the famous Moroccan slippers, handbags wallets among other products that are sold in several European markets.
Price and place at Fez Tannaries
The prices of these exquisite leather products vary according to type and quantity here are some examples:
• Poufs, depending on size will range from 14$ to 20$.
• Baskets range from 6$ to 14$.
• Leather slippers average around 6$.
Here are a couple of extra tips to look out for while shopping in morocco:
1) The best places to purchase such items are medians not souks as the medians are for lifestyle products such as clothing, home decor and jewelry and such commodities while Souqs are for food products. These medians are abundant all around Morocco.
2) The leather coming out of Fez is known for its good quality products however due to the production process the leather is quite odorous. The smell wears off in a couple of days, it just wears off quicker with high-quality leather and it’s better to stick to specialized stores such as La Galerie Birkemeyer, Galerie Bertrand, prism concept store……etc.
3) Stay focused on what you want to get. It’s easy to get caught up in the multi-Chroma markets and beautiful handmade crafts of morocco where the question becomes not what should I buy but rather what should I not buy. The golden rule here is to stick to the traditional local products and the budget that you have set for yourself.
4) As glamorous and authentic as the medians in morocco are there is still a parallel economy of counterfeit goods. Neither Global brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace nor traditional local crafts like the Babosh (traditional Moroccan slippers) are safe. The way to avoid this is to stick to local authentic Moroccan items and purchase from specialized stores like the ones mentioned above.
What to consider while visiting Fez Tannaries?
Morocco as any other country has its own culture, norms, and etiquette to consider while there. Here are some of these undisclosed social rules to consider while in morocco:
1) Dress appropriately: For women it’s important to dress conservatively as although men are able to dress freely and many tourists might wear what they want it might attract unwanted attention.
2) Currency and cost: Most established shops will be able to deal with purchases through credit card but street vendors, taxi drivers, and smaller markets will not. Be ready with the local currency and exchange enough money when you can.
3) Learn to haggle: Haggling is a key skill when venturing through the medians in morocco and will help you get great deals on either single or several items
4) Spoken languages: Generally Moroccans tend to speak a mix of Arabic, English, and French. English in large cities will be enough to communicate but in the rural areas, you’re better off with a translator. Salam Alikome (Hello), choukran (thank you), La choukran (No thank you) are some of the basic phrases you might need.
In conclusion, Morocco is a historic, lively, and vibrant country with a lot of attractions and activities to do with the tanneries of fez being a must see attraction.