Best time to visit Morocco

Fes Tanneries in Morocco

One of the city’s most iconic sights, a window into the pungent, natural process of producing world-class leather using methods that have changed little since medieval times

Best time: September–May

Fes Tanneries
Fes Tanneries
Fes Tanneries

Fes—Morocco's third largest city—was founded in the 8th century and now has a population of over one million people. It is famous for its leather products and most of it comes from the leather bazaar (souq). The souq is home to three ancient leather tanneries, the largest and oldest being the Chouara Tannery, which is almost a thousand years old.

Tanneries in Morocco follow the traditional system of treating leather. Hides are soaked for a few days in vessels full of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt before being picked and dried. Then they are sent to the next set of containers filled with mixed pigeon droppings and water for softening. With nothing besides bare hands and feet, local tanners rub down the skins to reach the desired softness as well as to prepare them for the final dying process. Visitors can observe the tannery in action and receive a gift upon arrival: a tiny spring of mint to hold near the nose when the smell becomes too unbearable.

The tanneries are the least smelly in the cooler season, so the best time is roughly September to May.

Practical info

What is the traditional method of treating leather at Moroccan tanneries?

In Morocco, tanners use a centuries-old method for processing leather. Hides are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt for a few days. Afterward, the hides are soaked in containers filled with a blend of water and pigeon droppings to soften them. The leather is further processed by hand and foot to achieve the desired texture and appearance before it is finally dyed. Show more

How old is the Chouara Tannery and what is its significance in Morocco?

The Chouara Tannery is the largest and oldest tannery in Fes, Morocco. It has been in existence for almost 1,000 years and is one of the most important tanneries in the country. Visitors to the tannery can witness the traditional leather-tanning techniques that were once common throughout the Moroccan empire. To this day, the tannery remains significant to the local economy as a place to view and purchase high-quality leather products. Show more

When is the best time to visit the Fes Tanneries, considering the smell factor?

The tanneries of Fes can sometimes overwhelm the senses with the strong odor of animal hides and chemicals. However, visitors can experience the tanneries with less smell during the cooler months of the year. Due to this, the best time to visit is roughly between September and May. During the warmer summer months, the smell can be intense, so it's best to avoid the tanneries at this time. Show more

Where can visitors get the best view of the tanneries and how do they reach there?

To obtain an excellent view of the Fes tanneries, visitors can go to the surrounding hilltops, notably the studio Glaoui, or any of the small concrete viewing platforms. Tourists are generally guided to the tanneries by local tour guides or touts offering a guided tour at a price. Please note that it's customary to offer a small tip to the tannery worker who provides mint tea as their kindness will be appreciated. Show more

What are some of the unique leather products available in the souq of Fes?

Fes' souq, or leather bazaar, offers an array of unique leather products. Some of these include purses, wallets, belts, shoes, and jackets featuring intricate designs, symbols, or calligraphy. They are made of high-quality, soft leather material. Additionally, the authentic Moroccan slippers called 'babouches' are among the most famous souvenirs available. They are handmade and come in various sizes, patterns, and colors. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin