Donkeys and mules are central to the economy of Morocco. Without them, people would not be able to easily go places, carry goods to and from the market, plow fields or just about any part of life we take for granted. They are essentially living SUVs. They are super tough little guys with a heck of a sense of humor who give much and ask for little in return.
One place we returned to this trip was Jarjeer Mules, which is located just south of Marrakech. We visited our friends Susan and Charles who run the sanctuary for donkeys and mules. They take in older equids that are at the end of their working lives as well as those who have been abandoned or orphaned. Those animals have surely won the lottery to end up in Susan’s care. They come in scared, thin and full of worms and soon bloom into lovely, shiny, happy donks and mules who enjoy nothing more than good meals, sunning themselves and chasing each other around the paddock.
Our visit this time, though, included a day of hands-on lectures. Originally we’d planned just to work with Susan’s caretakers, but along the way the entire village was invited. Most attendees were expats who came to learn more. A happy surprise was our friend Ali Raji, who we met at the National Stables last October during our previous trip, also made the two-plus hour trip to the talk. We had messaged about it on Facebook several weeks before, and he was very encouraging. Poor Ali didn’t expect we were going to rope him in to translating from English to Arabic though!
Paula and I covered everything from the basics of temperature, pulse and respiration to looking at the color of the donkeys’ gums. Using the very patient Emily, the adorable Boris (who had no idea what he was getting into when he followed Emily out the gate), the ever-keen Mary and cute Clover, we had hands-on time with wrapping (and rolling bandages), grooming, using a weight tape and more. It was a full day of learning, but it was great to see everyone get really into it, ask fantastic questions and seem to enjoy our time together. Paula even had a record sheet translated into Arabic so the guys can track the health of each animal. Without Ali’s help, though, I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful. We are very much indebted to him.
All-in-all we met some wonderful and very interesting people and had a wonderful lunch catered by friends of Susan and Charles. Ali made plans with Susan to come back soon. We were so thrilled to be able to share our knowledge, and we are hopeful that some of them will spread out through the village and beyond.—Stacey Wigmore