Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

The Mules of Marrakech

It’s no secret that I have a massive love for animals and every time we travel I seem to make furry friends wherever we go.  In fact, my doctor always recommends that I get a rabies shot whenever we travel because, whether I’m living with lions in South Africa, saying hello to street dogs in India, cuddling flea ridden kittens in Fiji, or doing my usual job of volunteering at London Zoo, absolutely nothing can keep me away from animals.

So when I started my research on Marrakech and came across Jarjeer Mules, a retirement home and care centre for donkeys just a short drive out of the city, there was no doubt in my mind that we had to go.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

I had already heard all about the animals in Marrakech – the snake charmers that frequent the main square, Jemna el Fna, and the monkeys that are paraded around dressed up in clothes and shackled in chains for tourists to have photos with.  Why anyone would want a photo holding a monkey with a chain around its neck, who is made to sit out in the sun for hours every day or holed up in a tiny cage, I have absolutely no idea.  Let alone the fact that you have to then tip the local for the photo.  I would rather my time and money went to a much more worthwhile cause where the animals are treated kindly, and the look on my face made this absolutely clear to any local who came anywhere near me with one of these poor monkeys!

There are also plenty of horses and carriages (caleche) around the city giving tourists and locals rides, but I was glad to hear that the horses are checked over every six months by the animal welfare charity SPANA, to make sure they’re fit, healthy and are being treated well.  Unfortunately, the mules don’t yet get the same treatment and they’re often overworked throughout their whole lives, pulling heavy loads in the dusty heat, until they are too old to work and are of no use to their owners anymore.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

This is why I loved the sound of Jarjeer Mules so much.  Run by Sue and Charles, a British couple who retired to Morocco where they built their dream home, they took in Tommy, a little orphaned donkey and, a few years later, they have somehow ended up with a countless number of donkeys and mules, Daisy and Buttercup the curious cows, and 11 dogs including their own 2 little Yorkshire Terriers from home and Rosa the three-legged dog who hopped about keeping watch over the donkeys.  Mr Ayla could tell straight away what I was thinking – sounds like the perfect retirement to me!

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

As soon as we stepped out of the car outside their beautiful home amid the dusty orange Moroccan desert, we were surrounded by all the barking and yapping dogs, clearly excited to see visitors.  Mr Ayla, always a little wary of dogs, despite the fact that he has cleaned out an enclosure full of almost fully grown lions in South Africa, was thankful when Sue came out to greet us and took us straight over to meet the donkeys.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

We wandered around, Sue telling us a bit about each of the animals and how they ended up at Jarjeer.  It seems that people send sick and injured donkeys here from all over Morocco thanks to all their hard work!  It was so lovely to see that these animals, who probably haven’t been treated too well for most of their lives, have ended up in this haven where they can eat to their hearts’ content, play with the other donkeys and live out the rest of their lives being cared for.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

It was hard to see some of the animals who were clearly unwell and extremely malnourished, such as Gus who had only recently arrived when we visited.  He was blind in one eye and had so much trouble standing that he had to wear thick cushioned casts around his legs to help keep him up, thanks to the wears and tears of a life constantly pulling heavy loads on his feet every day.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

Some of the animals were still a little hesitant around people and didn’t like to be touched but others were so friendly it was as if they had never worked a hard day in their life and had no fear of people at all.  They obviously recognised and loved the people who looked after them and they welcomed plenty of cuddles from us and we were complete strangers.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

Even Gus loved hugs despite being so poorly and I think Mr Ayla took a bit of a shine to him.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

Boris and Palex, a cheeky father and son duo, were especially affectionate and they kept following me around, nudging my bottom for attention every time I stopped stroking them for a minute.  I did not want to leave them behind.  They were pretty small donkeys; I’m sure I could somehow get them back to London.

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

Jarjeer Mules Marrakech

After spending the day here and seeing how much passion Sue, Charles and the other workers all had for the animals, we knew they were all in safe hands here and would always be looked after.  I left hoping to return again soon, already planning my retirement, and wishing there were more people in the world who would show this sort of kindness to animals.

Thank you to Sue and Charles for inviting us into their home and introducing us to all the animals.  It’s an amazing project and we’re planning on coming back soon!

Have you been to an amazing place for animals like this anywhere else in the world?  Let me know (because I obviously want to go there!) in the comments below or at:

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26 thoughts on “The Mules of Marrakech

  1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) says:

    How on earth did you remember all their names?! It took me weeks just to remember all my colleagues’ names when I started work!! This place looks fabulous – what an amazing cause and these mules look seriously well looked after, just the pampering they deserve after being overworked and orphaned. Living a much happier life than those monkeys in the main square I imagine, poor monkeys 😦

    • Ayla says:

      I remember animal names better than I remember people’s names haha! They do have a really good life here. The ones that had been there for a while all looked so healthy and they were clearly very happy. I’d love to go back again! 🙂

    • Svenja says:

      Guess that’s because donkeys are so much sweeter than colleagues 😉 I’m always struggling to learn my students’ names, usually involves a couple of weeks of “you in the blue t-shirt” and countless episodes of “I’m sorry, but what’s your name again?” – never had that problem with animals…

      • Ayla says:

        Haha remembering names can be pretty difficult sometimes but I’m the same – when it comes to animals I just remember (possibly because I bond with animals a lot easier than I do with people!)

  2. Travelguide Marrakech says:

    Wow, I spend several weeks every year in Marrakech but I have never heard anything about this mule paradise and should visit it. One question: What do they do with animals, dying during their hostage? Do they have something like a mule cemetery?

    • Ayla says:

      I’m not actually sure what they do with any that might die but it’s good to know that at least they’ll enjoy the rest of their lives here. You should definitely visit next time you’re in Marrakech 🙂

  3. whereisnoodles says:

    Mules are so ridiculously cute. So wonderful to hear that this couple retired to Morocco and set up the sanctuary! What an inspiration! I agree with you – sounds like the perfect retirement to me too!

  4. Polly (Follow Your Sunshine) says:

    That photo of Gus is heart breaking, but I’m so glad that places like this (and people like you!!!) exist to make things better for these animals. I see so much animal cruelty in Doha and I wish there was more I could personally do, apart from give money to charity every month.

    Polly xx

      • Svenja says:

        It is! My job at the zoo was mainly guiding visitors around, including “visits behind the scenes”, which were always a lot of fun 😃 In winter, when visitor numbers dropped, us zoo guides used to help out wherever an additional hand was needed, which was even better than giving tours…

      • Svenja says:

        Yes, and I really loved that job – it’s been 15 years since, and I still remember it very fondly (and still love talking about it…). Sadly, it was limited to two years, no chance of contract renewal 😔

  5. Emily Ray (@emilyraylondon) says:

    Oh my gosh, I had tears in my eyes reading this – such an inspiring place, and full of love! I can definitely see you retiring out there, haha. The main picture is fantastic…you look like a Disney princess tending to all her donkeys ❤ Definitely heading here when I (finally!) get to Marrakech xx

    • Ayla says:

      My life goal is now complete – Disney princess status accomplished!! I can imagine you loving this place too Emily. And you’ll be glad to hear that the cats are treated pretty well in Marrakech with the locals feeding the street cats every day 🙂

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