Donkey’s Have the Right of Way in the Medina!

Balek! Balek!

The Fes Medina is a densely populated urban area with extremely narrow streets; impassable to cars and trucks.  The donkey (H’mar in Arabic) play a vital role in this society.  They are the taxi and delivery truck in the Medina.  When things need to be moved, the donkey’s (and some mules) do the work.  They pick up the trash in the morning, transport building materials to job sites, deliver to goods to businesses and even serve as the ambulance.   The loads they carry are unbelievably big in comparison to the size of this smallish creature.  You really need to see it to believe it.   They work all day with no complaints other than a look I would describe as weary.

During the day, the doors directly off the streets into the homes of the Medina are required to be open so that people walking have an escape hatch when a donkey approaches.  Walking in the Medina reminds me of a car race.  People jockey for position, pass on the inside and yes, they yield right of way to the donkey!  If you hear someone yelling “Balek! Balek!” it translates to “get out-of-the-way or be tackled” and I recommend that you pay heed. There are even designated areas in wider sections of the street for “parking” your donkey.

I give life and meaning to inanimate objects and at times I care more for animals than I do some people.  The donkey’s have kind,  soulful eyes and despite the saddle sores and dust, are creatures that I wanted to hug.  Thankfully, I was too exhausted to attempt this and likely saved myself significant embarassment but those serene eyes will stay in my memory as long as I live…

One response to “Donkey’s Have the Right of Way in the Medina!

  1. I really enjoyed your descriptions of donkeys’ eyes. I often feel the same way about animals, especially about horses and ponies (I’ve never seen real donkeys, that’s probably the only reason they are not on that list)

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