Fes tanneries

Chaouwara open air tannery is located on the eastern edge of the medina (Fes al-Bali). It's one of iconic tourist sights in Morocco but also an ecological threat. Leather cuttings, dyes and garbage make it to the Sebou river which carries not only wastes from the tannereies, but also untreated water from the city.  Not all of the wastes make it out of the city.


Work in the open air tanneries is hard because of the smell and conditions. Among other things, workers have to immerse in water mixed with pigeon droppings (collected from the rooftops). They earn between 2 and 5 $ a day. Chaouwara is one of the three tanneries located within the medina where traditional methods and ingredients such as quicklime, pigeon droppings and tree bark are being used.

Overall, there are 58 tanneries in Fes, most of them located in the industrial parts of the city. Use of modern chemicals such as sulphate, formic acid and chrome in industrial tanneries allows to dye leather in 2 days instead of 2 months. The are plans to transform honeycomb-like tanneries into gardens, green recreational areas for visitors and residents alike. Probably it's a matter of time before traditional tanneries will become a thing of the past.