The Tannery – Fez Morocco

Fez Tannery Morocco

This experience in Morocco was unique, and something we will remember from our time in the old city of Fez. The colours, sights and smells of the Tannery in Fez were truly unique. Our Moroccan travels took us to Fez, an old city known for the old Medina (old walled town) and the history of unique craftsmanship. Particularly crafts with clay pottery, mosaics, silver, weaving and leather work. Whilst all craftsmen were interesting to see in action, the Fez Tannery was particularly enthralling. We had a local guide which took us to the Chouara Tannery in the central Fez Medina.

This working tannery was visually stunning, and unlike anything we had ever seen before. The colours of the tanning pools, contrasted with the Fez medina city walls provided a wonderful backdrop for photos. Learning about the history, and watching the craftsmen in action was also a great part of learning the culture of Fez and Morocco.

History of the Fez Tannery

The age of this central Fez tannery is unknown, but some history suggests it is over 1000 years old (possibly began in the 9th century). The Chouara Tannery is one of the largest in Fez, and likely the oldest. The tanning industry in Fez still operates in a similar way that has for the past 100s of years, making it a remarkable step back in time. The tanning industry was previously one of the key exports from Fez, and still exports goods around the world.

The stone pools used to tan the leather (hides from cows, sheep, goats and camels) is completed over a number of stages:

Step 1: hides are soaked in a white liquid to help soften and clean them. This white liquid is made up of pigeon faeces, cow urine, lime, salt and water. Over the course of a few days these leather hides soften.

Step 2: this is the stage where the hides gain some colour. They are soaked in the coloured dyeing pools, with red, blue and orange colours the key ones used.

Step 3: the hides are then dried under the sun on the surrounding balconies.

Step 4: the leather hides are the sold to the talented craftsmen of Fez who make a number of products.

This whole process takes up to 5-6 weeks, and uses only manual labour with no modern machinery. The process is still similar to what was completed over many 100s of years.

Want to know more?

Fez Tannery Morocco

What should you know before you visit the Fez Tannery?

  1. Located in the heart of the Fez Medina, this isn’t a simple place to find and get to. Fez is an absolute maze, and without a guide we are convinced we would have got lost many times. We would recommend getting a guide or tour to get to this Tannery. This will improve your experience and help you learn the history.
  2. The smell of the Fez Tannery is very strong. The leather, tanning pools, and the sun, combine to give off a very pungent smell. The tannery will often give you fresh mint when you enter to help dilute the smell, however this is something you should expect when you visit.
  3. Expect the leather salesmen to hassle you as part of your viewing experience. The view of the Fez tannery is located on the balconies of a number of leather goods stores. You enter off the street and walk upstairs into these vibrant leather goods stores, heading out to the balcony to get the breath-taking views. Once you have heard about the history and seen the views, the salesmen begin to hustle you. There is no expectation to purchase, however they will put some effort into trying to sell you some goods.
  4. The streets surrounding the tannery are filled with locals who will try and hawk their goods to you. These products are often gimmicky and often may not even be made in Morocco. If you are not interested in purchasing, the best way to avoid getting caught in their sales pitches is to firmly decline, not engage with them, or even ignore them as you walk past.

Tourist trap? No! But it is touristy. This is a visually stunning experience, and a great part of the history of Fez. We loved it despite the touristic nature, especially because the tannery was still functioning in a similar manner as it had for 100s of years.


Keep reading about our time in Morocco! Take a look here!

Take a look at a gallery showing some of the stunning doors of Morocco which caught our eye during our trip! Have a look!

Check out the highlights and recommendations from our time in Spain (a great addition to a Moroccan trip)! Check it out!

Want to add another great stop the your Morocco trip? Consider Portugal! See our Portugal highlights here!

Keen to take a look at further travel memories and advice? Take a look here!

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