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Why is Morocco so famous for leather?

24 September 2020 09:10

Find local goods in Morocco's maze-like markets

Find local goods in Morocco's maze-like markets

Join us as we get under the skin of the North African export...

What's special about Morocco's leather?

Moroccan leather is traditionally handmade from goatskin. A combination of pigeon faeces, urine, lime, salt and water are used to this day to remove any unwanted hair and transform the hides into a more manageable material. The durable end-product is then dyed in a far more pleasant mixture of poppies, saffron and henna for a splash of colour. The goatskins are famed for their soft feel and visible grain.

Where does Morocco's history with leather begin?

The history of Moroccan leather actually begins in Nigeria. Goat skins in the region were transported across the Sahara to merchants in the north hundreds of years ago. It's difficult to say when the products were first made but the Chouara Tannery, one of the oldest in Morocco, dates back to the 11th century. From the 16th century, leather was exported to Europe for luxury book bindings. And by the late 19th century, sheep and calf skins were commonly used to keep up with increasing demand.

How important is leather to Morocco today?

According to the latest statistics, Morocco produces 10.6 million pieces of tanned sheep and lamb skins per year. Add that to the 2.4 million pieces of goat skin treated in the country and you start to get a better picture of the huge amounts of leather produced in the region. The large numbers mean thousands of Moroccans are employed in the production, distribution and sale of the quality goods.

Where can I go in Morocco to find their famous leather?

Step into any souk or marketplace in Morocco, and you're pretty much guaranteed to find stalls selling slippers, jackets and bags made from local leather. But if you want the true leather experience, it's worth paying a visit to a tannery. The Chouara Tannery is one of three tanneries in Fez and some claim it's the oldest of its kind in the world.

What else is Morocco known for?

Nothing says Morocco quite like the maze of stalls at the cities' souks. Marrakech and Casablanca are particularly well known for their outdoor markets where leather goods sit next to locally produced rugs, pottery and ornate lanterns. If you're looking for an alternative North African experience, the fishing village of Taghazout and the coastal city of Agadir are fast becoming surfer hotspots. Whatever you choose, just don't forget to sample a dish prepared in a traditional tagine.

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