Once we found out that we were heading to Fes, we immediately knew one stop we had to make: the Chouara Tannery! We’ve seen tons of photos of the colorful vats and were so excited to photograph the site, but what we didn’t quite expect were all the rotting smells.
Fez, or Fes, is considered the real Morocco by locals. At one point, it was the capital of Morocco and unlike the other large touristy cities in the country; it still retains its roots. It is considered the handicraft center of Morocco and a lot of the traditions have been passed down through many generations. They are most famous for their leather goods and their carpets.
Since we had a local guide, we had no trouble finding the Chouara Tannery, which is the largest out of the three tanneries located in the Fez Medina. And even without a guide, it’s not too difficult to find a tannery if you just follow your nose.
After arriving at the leather shop, we were given a quick background of how they make the leather and had the chance to go up to the roof to look down on the vats. As we headed up, they gave all of us sprigs of mint and told us to hold them under our noses. This is to help you mask the pungent smells of the soaking and drying leather below.
Since it was a day after the Eid holiday, there wasn’t as much activity in the souks or the tanneries, but the smells and sights were still there.
After taking photos, we headed back down into the shop where we had a chance to look through all the leather goods. They had everything from ottomans, jackets, shoes, wallets, and possibly the world’s largest bag (see photo below).
Overall they weren’t overly pushy with selling the items at the store we visited unlike the carpet shop, which we’ll save for another post.
Since we were with a group, we didn’t have the flexibility to visit any of the other leather shops. Each one has its own rooftop vantage point so we definitely recommend visiting multiple shops to get your best shot. Otherwise, enjoy the views of an ancient tradition and keep those noses plugged!
Pro Tips for Visiting the Chouara Tannery in the Fez Medina:
- Most carpet and leather shops will take credit card. The other street vendors you see around will be cash only.
- As you approach the tannery, there will be people offering you sprigs of mint. Do not simply take it or they will ask for money.
- You can also consider bringing a peppermint hand sanitizer spray to help with the smell. Plus, it always comes in handy during your travels.
- If you hear the word ‘Balak,’ you should quickly move to the side. It usually means someone is coming through with a donkey or cart.
- If someone on the street offers to show you around, do not follow him or her. They may take you to a store and pressure you into a sale or ask for money in the end.
- Keep track of your path so that you can follow the same route back out. The medina is a maze and difficult to navigate.
- Even if you hire a guide, know that they have built relationships with a lot of the shops they take you to and receive a cut of the sales. When they are trying to help you haggle, they may not be getting you the best price. We were able to get much better prices without their help.
- If you don’t hire a guide, you can “tag along” with another group to navigate the streets.
- If you’re planning on spending the afternoon at the Medina, bring some water with you. We love this soft bottle because once we’re done, we can roll it up and put it in our pocket.
- Check out 21 Things You Must Know Before Visiting Morocco + Our Morocco Packing Guide.
- If you want more in-depth info on visiting Morocco, pick up this book.
Would you buy leather goods when visiting Fez? What’s are some cities you’ve visited that have been difficult to navigate?