If once in Morocco, or especially in Fès, traveller there has a perfect possibility to step a foot back to medieval times. And in this case – while checking out the tanneries, places where raw animal skins are processed and turned into soft leather. It is extremely interesting because methods didn’t change for ages. Despite the fact that a big part of leather production was moved into factories, where all the process is adapted to worldwide standards, but the ancient method is still alive. And, easily available for every visitor in Morocco to see.
Tanneries in Fès are located in the Old part of the city, called Medina. When you will be getting closer to the area, be sure that will appear many locals, ready to offer their service with orientating. Of course, if you accept this help – prepare to spend some time in leather goods’ shops or pay some dirhams afterwards. But the rule number one – think twice before opening the wallet: not all the volunteer help from locals, which see you as money machine and tells you in a nervous manner quick stories, should be rewarded in monetary terms.
Fès is a city of leather production. Prepared soft products are being exported to France, Spain, a lot of the goes to India too. But the result of soft materials has not that shining start. I do not want to detail all the process, how the raw skin turns to satin leather, but some moments are worth mentioning.
They use various animals’ excrements, urine for softening the skin, removing the smell. In the process of colouring vegetal and mineral tanning supposed to be used. And, everyone there claims the same. But in reality chemical colours are being used quite often, despite the fact that no one wants to admit it. “We use only natural colour. For example, orange – comes from saffron” – told us our little helper in tanneries. Fun because in reality, if they dye with natural colours, orange comes from turmeric because saffron is simply too expensive. Everybody wants to wear on the crown, no? And, why not? I mentioned before that Moroccans are telling stories, which are not necessary real. But all that gives an additional charm, puts a “dream” filter. You won’t get happier if you fight for the true. Better take the country as it represents itself.
For me tanneries associate with huge slaughter. Huge slaughter mixed up with strong odours of decaying flesh, urine, animal feces and “dead wool”, how they called it. Ok, in reality you will not see guillotined heads of animals, actually, you won’t see any animals at all. But the fact is clear.
I must admit that it was interesting to see how people work there and how does the origin of leather coats and shoes looks like in reality. But at the same time I must add that there is nothing beautiful at all. Tanneries are like a perfect input to one’s general education, representation of alive picture of medieval times, but not a gem for aesthetes or human sensations.