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“Tourists be aware”
Review of Tanneries

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Attraction details
Fee: No
Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: Leather tanning is the major industry in the city. It’s definitely worth a walk through this neighborhood.
Reviewed 10 July 2014

If you are actually interested to see how leather is tanned, then it might be worth going. Otherwise, beware of this GROWING TOURIST TRAP.

We were actually heading to the Ben Youssef and Museum, when we got a bit lost in the souk. We were asking one of the store owners for direction when a bypassing teen insisted to take us there. He was in fact leading us to the Tanneries, saying that its the "Festival of Colours" when only that day we can see this special day. After walking for 10 mins with complete lost of our sense of direction, we realised he took us to the entrance to a Tannery. We politely said we were not interested but want to go to the museum. Once he led us to the museum, he demanded money. When we said no, he became verbally aggressive, so I threatened to call the police and he left.

The second time we visited there, we got lead by a 20 yr old boy to the tannery, who seemed quite genuine and said he does not want any money at all. He claims that he was from the Berber village and his mother works at that tannery. He didnt ask for any money, but when we got to the tannery entrance. There was a older man at the doorway, welcomed us, gave us mint and told us to go with him. Even if you say no, he will persist and get on his business telling you things about the tannery. After going to the Berber tannery, he led us to another street which is the Arab tannery, we knew he would charge us, so we didnt go in. He said then at least go to the leather shop which he led us to. After reading some tripadvisor reviews before I knew they would pressure us into buying something, so I said to the leather shopkeeper that we do not want to buy any leather. He asked us to have a look only so we did. The shopkeeper was quite friendly and did not persist when we said at the end that we do not want to buy anything.

When we got out, the tannery "guide" was waiting outside and immediately asked us to pay him 200 dh for the tour. At that point, the kid that guided us to the tannery was there too asking us how it was. I told them this sort of money he asked for was ludicrous. As he persisted, I had to threaten to call the police. I gave him 20 dh and left the area pretty promptly. (only going through the closest exit and finding ourselves out of the city wall and having to walk 30 mins in the scorching sun to find another entrance to the medina all..)

It was good seeing the tannery but the whole experience was just not very enjoyable. My advice
1) only ask for directions from guards, police, (some) store owners.
2) don't let anyone who isnt an official tourist guide to lead you somewhere
3) If they insist on taking you there out of good heart, you should thank them but mention that you will not pay them before walking with them.
4) If you really want to see the Tanneries, always ask them how much first and bargain a price before being shown around. (It is unlikely that you will be able to walk around the Tanneries on your own without being followed or "guided")
5) travel in bigger groups, or join other tourists
5) if anyone is intimidating you, say you will call the police (tel: 19) or tourist police.

5  Thank ckwl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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231 - 235 of 628 reviews

Reviewed 7 July 2014

If you've never seen how leather is tanned this is a must see. Just be aware that you might night like the smell. We were guided through an Arab and a Berber tannery before being taken into a souk to look at / buy goods. Expect to give 100Dh for the tour. It goes to the family, not the guide.

Thank Maria M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 June 2014

We were led to the Tanneries by a young boy, who was told to take us there by his father, as 'he is going anyway'. It's all part of the usual con-trick: "It's a special day/ it's a Berber auction/ "Festival of Colours". If you get lost around this area (you'll most likely be looking for the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Museum of Marrakech or the excellent Maison de la Photographie), you will be approached.

You can choose either to give in, or put up a fight (I don't necessarily mean this entirely metaphorically, either; on one of our days there, an overly persistent teenager became very verbally aggressive and displayed some worrying body language when he was told firmly that we were not interested in the Tanneries, or his guidance- luckily some local men warned him off before things escalated).

On the day we gave in, we were led along an increasingly down at heel area, where one of the locals took great delight in trying to freak my wife out by being lairy (I was a few steps ahead, and in the short time we weren't walking along together, a man approached her and said something possibly disrespectful inches from her face).

We were met by a fellow who gave us some mint (bunches of which are prepared elsewhere in the Tanneries). I'm not convinced the mint is necessary for the smell, and is more likely just given as part of the experience, and possibly to mark you out once you leave.

A whistle stop tour commenced, during which time i was told repeatedly that the leather treatment is totally organic, despite the poor souls who work there from 5 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon wearing looking as though they were in dire need of far more protective clothing than the old rubber gloves they wore. The men, the guide, my wife and the skin of the animals was the only organic matter in that awful place. Men worked in dark spaces or in the searing sun preparing the leather extremely poor conditions. I'm not sure if the place doubles as a slaughterhouse, but there were several goats and donkeys in the area that were very much ready for the knacker's yard.

Needless to say, there wasn't an auction, it wasn't a special day, and the only colour other than the monochrome sun baked stone was a caustic looking dirty aquamarine cess pool. I don't know much about chemistry, but I wasn't happy walking around the place with nothing on my feet but a pair of sandals, and nothing but a bunch of mint protecting my airways.

Once we were assured that camel and goat leather are more waterproof than any other, we were ushered into a shop for the hard sell. Luckily there were several other bewildered tourists in there, including two who were sitting down waiting for goodness knows what. We were giving a demonstration of 'pouffs', shown the bags, and I was shown the rugs. The owner seemed to lose his sense of humour when I told him that I couldn't possibly fit one in my suitcase ( this was after I asked him if they sold any 'bags for men', and he just about hissed the word 'export' at me), and at this point my wife walked out. One of the salesmen shouted to her, and I made my excuses and left too.

Once outside, the guide asked for money. I tried to give him coinage ("That's nothing!", which, to be fair, is true), and asked for 200 MAD. We witnessed a man holding newly bought, extremely expensive, leather satchel having his wallet inspected. My wife told me to put my wallet away, and she gave the man a 20 MAD note. When he started to protest she shut him down ("C'est tout!") and walked away. He stood slacked jaw for a bit, but he didn't attempt anything else (there was none of the aggression suggested elsewhere in these reviews).

The young lad who led us there ran up to me, and I discretely gave him a handful of small change- I hope he kept it for himself and his family, but more likely had it extracted by the men of 'the association'.

The fact is that the Tanneries isn't really a tourist destination in it's own right. It's a place where men work hard in poor conditions to make cheap leather goods. It's a behind the scenes look, but no more appropriately 'touristic' than a behind the scenes look at people mass producing Moroccan ceramics in some terrible factory. It's no wonder you have to be conned into going.

With regards to unofficial guides, I have a suggestion to the Marrakech authorities- I understand that there are official guides in the Medina, but there is definitely a need for some impromptu guidance at certain some points, so why not have a distribution of passes or t shirts, or whatever, that people can use to act as street guides? It could be that something is only two streets away, but it would be nice to go up to someone (the rule being that tourist approaches the guide, not the other way around and illegally as it is now) for a fixed price ( 5/10 MAD?) and be led to where you need to be. The unofficial guides presently risk arrest and jail and the young ones are undoubtedly exploited. Tourists would ask nothing more from these new 'offical' guides than general orientation, so they wouldn't replace the more knowledgable and expensive 'official' guides. It might even be a career progression for some people.

5  Thank IroningandSewing
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 June 2014

You get a chance to see how leather is tanned.. There are 2 main tanneries: Berber and Arab. The smell emanating from these places is atrocious but the experience is still kinda neat. Avoid the guides. The place is free and not difficult to find.

Thank CroatiaSoon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 May 2014

Be really careful in the tanneries, it is very interesting but can results in being a very expensive trip - best idea - to go with no money at all - the goods from the cooperatives are exorbitant and they will try any tact to get you to buy - We were lucky - we had taken no money and so couldn't buy things or provide the excessive tip which the guide expected (he asked for 200DHS!)

1  Thank Sarah P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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