THE ARTISANS OF MORROCO – LEATHER
The leather floors at El Fenn are a key element of our look, beloved by many guests – and, like so many aspects of our rooms, handmade by a team of expert artisans.
The floors have been a feature here ever since we opened in 2004. When we were developing the look for our first rooms back then, our aim was to showcase all the materials and artisanal skills that Morocco is famous for – from hand-polished tadelakt plaster to hand-carved cedar wood.
Leather was also on our list because Marrakech is famous for it. The leather artisans were the first to arrive in the city when it was established over a thousand years ago and they continue to work in the souk today. Other Moroccan cities such as Fez have far larger tanneries, but leather remains a key product for Marrakech.
So it was important for us to harness all that history in our room decor in some way. But how?
The most obvious way was via decor objects like pouffes, and small pieces of furniture such as stools. But then we decided to take the idea a step further. Morocco is famous for its beautiful tiled floors. Why not use leather to create a different kind of floor tile?
We took inspiration from a photo of the studio of German artist Joseph Beuys which had leather floors. Moroccan leather is famous for its pliability and softness. It’s also easily pigmented so we knew it would be a great material to work with.
Then we needed to find a team of people who could install this specialist flooring. As ever, we found them in our local neighbourhood. The artisans we work with here at El Fenn are not specialists who travel from miles around. They are the specialists living close by, our friends and neighbours.
Ever since then, we’ve brought the leather artisans to El Fenn each time we create new rooms. Over the course of several days, a team works to hand stitch the floor tiles together before laying them – making sure that any imperfections such as trapped air are smoothed out by hand. Mallets are used to make sure the leather is as flat and smooth as possible before the floors are pigmented and sealed.
It’s hard work. But we think the result is worth it. Our leather floors are warm, tactile – and have that hint of luxury we always want our guests to experience when they stay with us.
If you want to know more about Moroccan leather, a hide auction is held each day around 11am in Souk Naal. Or you can visit the Bab Debbagh tannery where skins are separated, soaked and treated using traditional techniques. Be warned – pigeon dung is used during the process so it can be a sensory overload.
Other blogs in our artisan series: Tadelakt