Enjoy a Trip to an Old-Fashioned Moroccan Tannery

3 min read
22 March 2023

Most travel guides warn readers about the foul smell emanating from the tannery pits and the possibility of being approached by a small Moroccan child who wants to show you through the gateway or accompany you to a nearby leather merchant, so a visit to the tanneries in Marrakech or Fez might not be on everyone's itinerary. You may get a fantastic story about the tannery gate for a single cent or a candy bar. The unpleasant smell is quickly ignored in favor of the unforgettable experience of seeing a centuries-old craft being made by hand.

Even after hundreds of years, Moroccans are still using the same traditional colors for tanning, including saffron, poppies, cinnamon, pomegranates, antimony, indigo, acacia, and oak bark. Witnessing hundreds of skins laid out in the natural sunshine to dry is a far cry from the mechanized production seen in the West. The smell may be tolerated, at least temporarily, by taking in the sights and sounds of this natural phenomenon, as well as the brilliant, gorgeous colors of yellows, reds, blues, and browns, and by smelling deeply at the sprigs of mint that are handed to the daring traveler.

The tales of the "Tanners Gate," also known as the "Gold Gate," at the Bab Debbagh Tannery in Marrakech are as interesting as the actual tanning process. Tanners are credited as the city's first inhabitants, yet tales about the city's founding have evolved and altered considerably throughout the centuries.

Several Moroccan crafts, like the famous Moroccan floor lamp, use goatskin leather. Any Henna lamp purchased in Morocco would be 100% authentic and one-of-a-kind. The lamp is created by the artist by hand-tying bits of colored goat leather to a metal frame. Most often, the frame is made of iron that has been pounded by hand. The last step is to apply Moroccan Henna patterns on the light.

Berbers from the Atlas Mountains are eager to tell you that Kajjoun Lights Moroccan Henna is the greatest in the world because of how rapidly the color develops. The Berbers brought the henna plant with them from Yemen and Syria, making the use of henna as a color in Morocco as old as the Berbers themselves. The leaves and petals of the henna plant are dried and then ground up to make the henna dye.

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