Make your way to the tanneries of Fes for an absolute sensory overload.
This was an experience that we've been told by practically everyone that you must do when you're in this city - visit the Tanneries of Fes. There are several tanneries in the city - with Chouara Tannery the largest and thereby being the main tourist attraction. The tanneries are concealed in the maze of alleyways that scatter across the city, which make them extremely difficult to locate and thus they're easy to miss.
Another thing we were told before we made our visit - you certainly smell it before you see it. They were absolutely right. As we made our way down the narrow, winding streets towards where we thought the tanneries were, the scent hit us immediately like a wall. It was a sharp and pungent smell, not exactly disgusting but not a pleasant smell at all. To be honest, it almost made us want to turn around and head back to the hostel!
However we pushed on and came across an inconspicuous looking shop, not drawing any attention to itself whatsoever. They were selling all kinds of leather goods, from bags to belts, and jackets to shoes. As we approached closer, a man sitting outside thrust some mint leaves into our hand and barked "You want to see tannery?!" Taken aback, we nodded our heads and he led us upstairs, explaining that the mint leaves were to hide the smell. As we climbed up winding staircases through the shop, we were surrounded by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of leather merchandise. We finally got to the top and what we saw took our breath away.
Chouara Tannery, Fes
Through our mint leaf breathing-masks, we gasped at the sight that beheld us. We didn't know where to look. Beneath us were perfectly round tanning pools of all different colours, with colour-soaked workers dipping in and out of them, sweating under this intense Moroccan sun. To our left on a Moroccan rooftop were some animal leathers drying in the sun. And surrounding us was the modest but beautiful Fes city skyline. We stood there for many a moment, taking in the sights and absorbed by the workers, seemingly mechanical in their work.
As the man who led us up approached again and broke us from our almost meditative state, I instinctively reached into my pockets and went to pay him some Dirhams for showing us to the top of this terrace (instinctive because unfortunately in Morocco, locals have a habit of demanding money for doing seemingly friendly acts like pointing directions or even taking a photo). However, this man shook his head and told us we didn't need to pay, but asked that we at least browsed his wares, but made it clear that we had no obligation to buy. Stunned by his kindness and humility, we did just that. The leather products seemed to me as un-manufactured and authentic, so much so that I ended buying a camel leather belt!
This was personally my last day in Fes and it was time to bid farewell to my newfound companion, Leo. So we walked back to the hostel (past the usual Fes sights of donkeys and cat sanctuaries!)
I was sad to leave this wonderful city, still rich in it's authenticity from days of old. It felt like stepping back in time hundreds of years, where you're surrounded by intense sights and smells - enough to give your senses a shock. While sorry to leave this place, I was excited because my next destination was at the absolute top of my list for Morocco to visit. This would be the last place I visit, and what a way to end the tour of Morocco.
With that, I left the hostel and took the four hour bus into the Kif Mountains, where something wondrous awaited me - The City of Chefchaouen, The Blue Pearl
The Tanneries of Fes, Morocco
🌏 | Fes, Morocco
📷 | Samsung S8
🎨 | Lightroom Mobile edits used
Over the next few weeks I'll be trekking through Morocco and I'll be share with you my thoughts, feelings, tips and warnings about visiting each place along the way. Being a photographer, I will be doing this while sharing my photos with all of you too! I sincerely hope you all enjoy.
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