When you visit Marrakech, touring a tannery is a unique experience you should consider. But is it worth the time and money? Depends – we’ll tell you about our experience at the tanneries in Marrakech and you can decide for yourself.
What is a Tannery?
The tannery is where leather is made. Traditionally, being a tanner isn’t a glorious life: they spend their days working with animal hides, and the process literally stinks.
They have to clean the animal hides, remove the flesh, fat, and hair, and then soften the hide in animal dung. Ammonia is another key ingredient to the process, and back in the day, urine was a reliable source for it.
If you’ve been to Brussels, you may know about the Manneken Pis (the Peeing Boy) statue. While many myths surround the fountain, it most likely symbolizes the tanner district of the city. During medieval times, tanners paid children for their urine.
Finding a Tannery Tour
You’ll find young men throughout the city hustling and bartering. Some will pitch free tannery tours, saying that you’re going the wrong way, but they’ll show you to the tannery for no charge.
Or so they say. Once you arrive at the tannery, they’ll ask for payment. If you’re afraid to make a scene or seem impolite, you can end up paying up to €50 – for directions you thought were free!
If you want to pay, you can always haggle. And if you don’t want to pay at all, you can walk away. It might create a scene, and the boy may seem hostile, but ultimately, what they’re doing is illegal.
But once you arrive at the tannery, you’ll also pay for the tour as well.
Touring the Tannery
First, they’ll give you mint sprigs to smell as you walk through the facility. And you’ll be thankful for it.
The guide leads you around to each processing vat and explains the tanning process. You’ll definitely learn a lot about how to make leather! It’s one of Morocco’s largest exports, which may be evident in the gift shops.
Visiting the Tannery Shop
After the tour, they’ll take you to their gift shop, or even just a local shop owner. You can either haggle here or elsewhere. And remember – you can always walk away.
Tanneries in Marrakech
If you’re genuinely interested in seeing one of the oldest professions in Morocco, we recommend visiting tanneries in Marrakech. But if you just want to shop for the leather goods, don’t want to haggle, or strongly dislike awful smells, then don’t go to a tannery! You can still have a great time visiting Morocco without going inside a tannery.
Have you experienced a tannery scam in Marrakech? Do you have other suggestions for visitors? Let us know in the comments!