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The Breathtaking Tannery of Fez

The tannery in Fez's medina is over 1,000 years old. It's a place where craftsmen turn animal skin into leather by soaking it in chemical soups, which include salts, acids, pee, and poo. A pretty potent mix. All manual labor. No machines. Pretty much the same process since the beginning. It's tough work.

For a visual, think makeup or watercolor palettes, but much bigger. It's probably the most iconic image of Morocco, for a good reason. I don't know if there's another place with a tannery of this history and scale. All guidebooks have an obligatory picture of the tannery.

What my photo doesn't convey is the stench. When you visit, they give you a sprig of mint to put under your nose. Utterly useless. The sight is, however, appropriately breathtaking.


  1. Tanning tends to be a low-status/caste job across the world, from what I gather, similar to other professions requiring contact with dead animals and/or smelly things. But the products have been undeniably useful to humans for pretty much our entire history. (This is me saying I object to classism. People should be thanked for doing useful things, especially when those things are stinky.)

    It does look like a giant set of watercolors or an enormous makeup palette, which is really cool.


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