In this episode, I get out of my comfort zone and use a few magic tricks to get a behind the scenes look at the Fez tanneries. I make friends with a worker named Nourdine, who greets me in French.
A quick note about French in Morocco. Nordine doesn’t speak English, so our communication comes down to my ability to speak French. French is kind of used in Morocco, but you’ll definitely get further with Arabic. I’m from Canada, so I learned French growing up, but in an academic system that doesn’t really work. I can read and write well, and I know a lot of verb forms, but my comprehension isn’t the greatest. Fortunately, I love languages, so I brushed up with podcasts and Duolingo, and I think I’ve learned more about conversational speaking in 60 hours than I have in school.
The smell of cow urine and pigeon poop is pretty overwhelming from ground level, and not for the faint of heart. It’s been a long day, these guys have one of the harshest jobs in the world, so I think I’ll raise their spirits with some card magic.
So, most visitors come see the tanneries from one of the shops up top. If you only have time to see it from the top, I recommend going to the shops on the west or south side, or the side that doesn’t enter from the river. Quick note: The shopkeepers are shady, and I have a whole episode on that. The magic trick unlock a whole new adventure as I join Nourdine on a delivery run of tanned hides. I follow Nourdine through some winding streets to arrive at a place he calls “Babaghesa”, which appears to be an where the cutting and colouring process happens. It’s also a horse and donkey stable, so I’ve gone from one stinky place to another. When all is done, I befriend the stable crew there with more magic.
That’s episode one of the tanneries. With new friends made, Nourdine’s going to show me some local hangouts, and I will return again in another episode to get behind the scenes of the peak daytime operations.