Tuesday 7 June 2022

Tanneries of Fez

We started this morning with a visit to a pottery and mosaic workshop. We had the obligatory tour of the workshops 

that was very interesting and then our fellow tourists proceeded to buy almost everything in sight. We joined in and bought two cereal bowls and a great time was had by all.

Then we moved on to tour the Medina, or old city. The streets were so narrow and steep that we had to walk in single file. 

As we got nearer to our next stop we started to notice an unpleasant smell that got worse and worse. At the entrance to the tannery shop we were each handed a big sprig of mint to try and reduce the smell.

I noticed one lady stuff some into each nostril, and another guy balanced it under his nose by pushing his lips out into a sort of Hitler moustache look. I was very pleased with myself as I whipped out my covid mask,pushed the mint inside and then wore it for the rest of the visit.

Once we got up on to the top floor we had an amazing view of the tannery.

If you look closely you can see men working in the little pools. 

The guide explained the process of turning camel,cow and sheepskins in to leather of different colours that they then turned in to bags, coats and poufs etc. It was a huge eye opener, and all done in the traditional way. I can't remember all of it, but the light coloured pools on the left hand side are full of pigeon droppings and the skins are left in it for many days as the acid does something to the skins.

It also accounts for the terrible smell. After that they are moved to the coloured pots where they are washed for 25 days in natural coloured dyes to add colour to the skins. It looks like an awful job,but apparently the jobs are passed down through the generations of families.

After that time, they are then left in the sun for a number of days before they are ready to be turned into clothes and bags.

Unfortunately I think that everyone was as shocked as me by what they had seen and smelt, and I don't think that anyone bought anything.

After that we had lunch which our guide told us was a fantastic Fez delicacy. Called a pastilla, it was a sort of chicken and spicy pie topped with icing sugar and cinnamon. I had huge doubts about whether chicken went well together with sugar and in my opinion I was right - it doesn't. However, we had good company and Daz and I shared one between us,which was more than enough.

We also toured a beautiful old building called a Madrassa, which is a Muslim school dedicated to learning the Koran. It is empty now, but had amazing decorative plasterwork in an enclosed courtyard.

We were told that the best students had the windows overlooking the courtyard and the others had darker rooms at the back, which seemed quite fair really.

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