Leather Tanning, Fez © Bernard Gagnon
Morocco is famous for producing high quality soft leather and the tannery in Fez is thought by many to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, leather tannery in the world, dating back at least nine centuries. The tannery is comprised of connected circular stone vessels filled with various dyes and liquids. All the work is done manually, as it has been since the 11th century. It is recommended that only those with strong stomachs visit the tanner's quarter, close to the Karaouine Mosque, which despite its odorous reputation has become one of Fez's main attractions. You can hire a guide to take you into the leather-dying pits, but will not be allowed to see them unaccompanied. Alternatively, visitors can ascend to any one of the terraces belonging to the surrounding leather shops that look down on the fascinating tanners' yard, honeycombed with vats of dye and piled with skins (it is expected that you will at least look around the shop afterwards, and if nothing is bought a tip to the shop owner is customary). The reason for the bad smell is chiefly because guano and pigeon droppings are used as part of the curing process. The tannery can sadly be a bit of a tourist trap as there are so many locals trying to capitalise on this ancient craft, but it is still worth a look for those interested.
Address: Bab Debbagh (Tannery Gate)