Tuesday, May 08, 2012
One of the famous industries of Morocco is their leather work. In both Fez and Marrakesh, there are large tanneries where leather is made by hand in what appears to be a backbreaking process of washing hides in noxious substances and scraping and dying and such. There is also a small industry of guys trying to get you to go see their tannery and then demand a sizable "tip" afterwards. Your correspondent was half-way shopping for a briefcase and was fished in by one of the more clever (I like to think) of these faux guides, but the extended tour of the tannery that resulted actually turned out to be pretty worthwhile. So it wasn't a "scam" other than that the promised price "free, just come look and see if you want to buy something at the leather shop" changed by the end of the trip "I spent a long time showing you around the tannery, so give me some money." The price I paid was what I thought the tour was worth, so I didn't feel financially ripped off, but one still feels a little silly at the point of realization that you've fallen for a line.
It can be a little hard visiting a country as a tourist when you want to be open to experiences and talk with locals but avoid being taken advantage of. Perhaps some amount of getting scammed is worth it for the value of not spending your whole vacation avoiding conversation in an attempt to avoid being taken. Your correspondent did, in fact visit a couple workshops where friendly people were happy to just show him what they were doing, but it's hard to know which is which before hand. I suppose that is all to say: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Anyway, above and below, hides drying on the roofs of the tannery buildings.