The Tannery - Marrakesh
There are several tannery operations in Marrakesh. Have a look around, before long a gentleman or several gentlemen will approach you to lead you through the tannery operation and ultimately deliver you to a show room where you will be put in the capable hands of a sales guy who is responsible for showing you anything and everything you may be interested in looking at or purchasing and answering any and all questions about the goods for sale.
Make sure that the gentleman you get acquainted with will walk you through the tannery and show you each area, and explain what part of the process is taking place in each area. Our guy walked us through each area, showed us what kinds of leather was being made from different animals. Make sure you wear closed toed shoes when you go, the process is sloppy, and quite pungent. You can get away with wearing sandals, but when you are lead through the tannery, you will be walking along the sides of pits and pools and piles of hides that are being marinated, for lack of a better word in, concoctions containing different ingredients, many of which contain pigeon crap.
While this is pretty stinky, sloppy, and a little disgusting, it is cool to see, and I wouldn’t consider the tannery experience complete without it. However, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to take you straight to a show room if you aren’t interested in seeing the less glamourous parts of the process. Our guy seemed to be right at home, knowing every part of the process, and it seemed like picking us up off the street, leading us through the tannery, and delivering us to the showroom was exactly what his role in the process was. He knew each person along the way, and of course provided us with “gasmasks;” handfuls of mint leaves for us to hold close to our noses for some of the particularly aromatic process areas.
Once our guy had shown us around the tannery, he lead us into a showroom where anything and everything that could made from animal hides was for sale. They naturally would like to sell you everything you are even remotely interested in, but I only ended up leaving with the items I was interested in beforehand, and were friendly and pleasant to bargain with. The tannery is pretty well known, and the stuff seemed to be of extremely high quality. You can get pretty much anything here, and made out of any variety or color of leather. I am certainly no leather expert, but we saw every part of the process, and considering what you’d be charged for this stuff in other parts of the world, I thought their prices were an absolute steal.
I always try to work under the assumption that I’m probably not getting any extraordinary deal, and a lot of what I’m paying for is that I can see the things I’m purchasing being handmade or tailored to my exact needs as I watch them measure and adjust everything. I try to never pay higher amounts based on any vendor’s claim that things will “last a lifetime” and always try to ask myself if I’d still be ok if whatever I purchased started to fall apart shortly after I returned home and had to be repaired. Anyway, if you’re always skeptical of what you’re getting and try to take things at face value, you’ll probably have a pleasant experience. The tannery was certainly the best experience I had purchasing anything in the market area or otherwise.
When we left, we were able to find the man who had given us our initial tour of the production process and give him some money for his trouble, which he was more than happy with, and actually prevented us from giving him too many forint, which was a pleasant surprise.