February 21, 2019 3 min read

Me trying to blend in and being “Marocaine.” 

Morocco has been on my bucket list for years. This half Japanese girl that grew up in a minimal aesthetic environment wanted to one day be immersed in a land of decorative surfaces, shiny embossing on everything, and a land of "when in doubt – decorate it." The jewel in the land of Morocco for me was Fes. A beautiful ancient city of labyrinths was a dreamland of exploration, a sense of "I’m lost" in the old Disney Aladdin movie, and “I can’t believe I’m finally here!  Hoooray!”  

Fun Fes Facts

Fes is home to the oldest, continuously operating, degree-granting university in the world, and which happened to be founded by a woman: University of Al-Karaouine (جامعة القرويين)

The city is made up of miles of tunnels that make up the old country, as well as the dates the city was born. Part of the magic is that this place is super, super old!

We stayed the the gorgeous Riad Fes – we’ll cover the hotel and this experience next month...

My designer eyes could not wait to see the leather dye area. This place is famous in the medina. The lamps, the tiles, the mint tea...yes please! I’ll have another cup, but get me to the dye houses!!!!!

We had the guide (you must have a guide in Fes, or you will not make it home for dinner) take us first to the historical tanning district.  Upon arrival to this little door, they hand you mint leaves. How cool, they think of aromatherapy wellness..!  Nope! This is to put directly into your nostrils to help survive the smell of the tannery.  OK, my romantic vision for this designer-adventure had slightly faded. The scent was strong – the curiosity and thirst for learning was stronger.  I carried on up the steps, more steps – about 4 floors up – and every floor had products being sold: shoes, bags, jackets, was busy up there!  We made it up to the top and...may I stop for a moment and say, what a site to behold. A combination of living history – same practices being done for over a thousand years. My eyes were dancing. My brain was zinging. My nostrils were barely burning any more. And did I mention, in the midst of all of this leather, was a fat cat enjoying the sunshine...(he hit the cat lotto)...sooooo delightful!


Look closely at this birdseye of all the leather dyeing vats. 

For over a thousand years, the tannery has been dyeing leather this way. Perched upon the terraces, you can watch every step of the tanning process, all the way to the drying phase. Pigeon droppings, waist high vats, and young men turning hides on rooftops all day to dry was utterly amazing.

Leathers are prepared by first being submerged in pigeon waste. This is the smelly part.

Behind narrow buildings that shape every curve in Fes' maze- in courtyards- men in waiters are getting hip-deep in large vats full of dye.  


Behind narrow buildings that shape every curve in Fes' maze- in courtyards- men in waiters are getting hip-deep in large vats full of dye. Yellow is the most expensive color because saffron is used. These are all natural dyes.

Meanwhile, above the men in vats are young men running barefoot, back and forth precariously along the rooftops, to rotate the hides drying under the Moroccan sun. I did not end up buying a yellow item…Instead I chose to go with a black fringe poncho – it’s the softest poncho I ever had, and I have quite a lot of ponchos. 

Thank you Fes, for sharing with me the beauty of  the Moroccan legacy of hand work. One of my most favorite adventures I’ve had and one that I recommend everyone see for themselves. Dreamy, inspiring - it left me feeling very, very proud of my sisters and brothers across the planet continuing to celebrate their gorgeous craft. I feel happy that our creative journey of exploration has no borders. Join our tribe. 

xox aviva

Bold Merchant Success
Bold Merchant Success

1 Response

Joni Greeson
Joni Greeson

February 25, 2018

Ahhhh! Lovely journey and experience~What did YOU buy as your treasure?! and what inspiration tickler can you share?! xoJoni

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Sign up for Special Offers