Visiting a Tannery was quite an experience. I still remember the nauseating strong smell that came from the visit. Although the scent was overpowering, I had learnt a lot from the experience. This is what experiencing teaches you.
A Tannery if you don’t know, is a place where a process of leather production takes place. The process involves treating skins and hides of animals to produce leather. Tannin, an acidic chemical is used to process the skin.
These days, the process of tanning is more automatic. In Morocco, exist several tanneries which you may visit to observe the manual and traditional ways of tanning. In Fez, exists tanneries which are almost 1000 years old so you can imagine how much leather has been produced here. The final stage is to produce the leather into a product such as slippers, hand bag etc. which is then shipped to European countries and sold there.
Hides of sheep, goats and even camels are used to be processed into leather. The many workers in the tanneries may find the job exhausting and even manual. For example, a worker at the tannery would use their bare feet for hours to knead the hides. So much effort can go into the production of leather. Imagine this is the hot weather where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius
In Fez, the Chaouwara Tanneries lie in the Medina of Fez next to the leather Souk. The scent can be smelled throughout the bazaar. The leather is dyed in many colours. Vegetable dye including henna, saffron and others are used for the colouring. The leather is sun dried before being used to make the final product.
Although the strong scent which can be unbearable, it is definitely worth a visit (A very educational experience).