I read all of the reviews here before going to the tanneries and I have to say my friend and I (both female), did not experience any of the trouble mentioned in previous reviews. It was early in the morning (around 8am) and we were originally looking to make our way to the south of the medina and asked a man near djemma el-fna for help. He then told us about the special day of the Berbers at the tanneries (blah blah) story, which everyone here seems to mention on here and my friend (who speaks French), agreed to follow, with me very apprehensive and thinking we were being led into a pit of skulduggery!
He said he didn't expect any money for showing us the way. We followed this guy for about 5-10 minutes through winding streets, but I was careful to take photos of/ take note of landmarks so we could easily find our way back.
We got to the tanneries and were handed over to a guy who was waiting at the door with the mint leaves. To be completely honest, the smell is not that bad. I didn't need the mint once. Yes, it is unpleasant, but I've smelt much worse on English farms!
The "guide" within the tanneries rushed us through a little tour, of which I took in very little and then showed us up some stairs to the shop, where we were handed over to the proprietor, who stressed there was no pressure to buy. And lo and behold, there was actually no pressure to buy. The goods here did look of a better quality than those in the souks and the proprietor said the price was fixed. He just explained how things were made and showed us his shop. We thanked him and then he showed us to another lady's shop and after looking round, we left. I couldn't believe it- we actually survived the tanneries and got a free branch of mint to go with it!
As we exited, the "guide" and the guy who had shown us to the tanneries were waiting and asked my friend for a little tip. He wanted 100 dirhams, but my friend basically laughed and told him he wasn't getting that. She gave them 10 dirhams each, but it didn't feel like they would have threatened us or insulted us if we hadn't given them anything.
Maybe it depends on the "guides" you get, as to how aggressive they are with the demands for money. If you are young, it might help to tell people you are a student- that way it is assumed you don't have much money to spend on their expensive leather goods!
I would say the tanneries are worth visiting just because it is something different to see. I would have regretted not experiencing it. However, it is not the most exciting thing to see in Marrakech!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.