Once upon a time… this is the beginning of almost every adventure story! My story begins this past October, on a Wednesday, when I awoke in the town of Fez, in Morocco. Shortly after arriving, I ventured out to explore my new surroundings and „No buy, just looking”, a phrase I heard from merchants every step of the way. This day I was determined to find the Chouara Tannery, which I knew would be one of the most unique sights I had ever seen before I had even laid my own eyes on it. From the hotel I was staying in, I used Google Maps as far as I could, but after I arrived in the city of Medina my phone, as well as my mind, went blank. The streets of Medina are tremendously narrow, some of them too narrow for even two individuals walking in same the direction, some never-ending rows of merchants selling items such as carpets, spices, leather products, and many other traditional items.
For me, it was a real labyrinth. Many locals noticed I was a tourist and asked if I needed help, but I was determined to explore and observe the locals, just admiring their way of life. I lost myself amongst the exotic scents, the crowds of people, the motorcycles and bicycles zipping through the same very narrow alleys I was walking. In the end, I asked a local for help, but after he guided through alley after narrow alley, where at one point I could only see a sliver of the blue sky above me, I decided to decline his help because it had already felt like a lifetime, and I did not feel very secure. I returned to the big cluster of shops, still with the wafting smell of leather and I could sense I was close to my destination. I was about to fall on my knees and pray for a helicopter to come and rescue me when an idea crossed my mind…I decided to purchase something from the stall of a local merchant, in the hope that he would help guide to the Tannery that I was so anxious to see.
Simple requests of „Sir, how much is this soap?” led into long conversations and clever selling tactics, so that I soon found myself with seven soaps, two bottles of perfume, and three bottles of argan oil. Soon after that, I found myself being escorted through the inside of the building and somewhere upstairs I could smell the aroma of leather that seduced my senses. Within five minutes I was led to a terrace where I could see many stone vessels of various striking colours and people manually labouring lines of camel and goat hides, as in ancient times, with yellow-grey blocks as the backdrop.
written by Alina Roiniță