One of the wonderful things about living in a car free environment like the Fez Medina, is that you can make alternative transport arrangements. The most common one is a donkey, or a mule. Now for a small family or a couple, a donkey is a reasonable investment. However, if you feel like charging up Jebel Zalagh, or you want to take the entire family from Ziat to Bab Guissa, then most people are advised to go the "full mule".
Today, our resident "donkey guru" Ibn Warraq, gives some advice on purchasing your first Medina donkey.
A donkey is a very personal thing. Some like them short and rather hairy, others like the leaner but taller models. So before purchasing, head to the donkey souq and browse the various models on offer. Remember, just because you like the look of a short hairy donkey, doesn't mean that it is going to be cheap to run. The grain/grass/hay consumption of some of the smaller models will surprise you. Often, a taller model has a longer neck extension that allows advantageous snacking along the derbs and thus a reduction in running costs.
Do check you budget, because the initial purchasing price does not include, vacinations, stabling, outfitting with GPS and, of course, the fitting of special non-slip Medina shoes.
Here are some things to consider
Determine why you need a donkey. Donkeys are used as pets, companions for other animals, guard animal, breeding, work, riding and showing. Know what you need a donkey for before looking at one to purchase. The use of donkeys as guard animals is increasingly popular and, fitted with reflective stripes and a fetching red flashing light, they can be quite scary.
Find your special donkey by loitering around the donkey souqs. Take your time and consider all the models on offer. Remember buying a second hand donkey is fraught with dangers. Unscrupulous dealers often use boot polish to cover bald spots or add hair extension to tails.
Visit the donkeys you think are suitable for your needs. Remember a donkey may have mood swings during the day. It is very upsetting to find the animal that was so happy in the morning has a fit of the grumps every afternoon and thows hissy fits at night. Don't bring a carossa with you the first time, as you may be tempted to bring home the animal even if it isn't exactly what you want or need.
Get to know your intended donkey. Take it treats. Talk to it and show it photos of its future home. This bonding is essential as you will be spending a lot of time together. Remember, it is too late to change your mind after a couple of weeks as the resale price will have dropped considerably.
It is important to speak the donkey's language. If he has been raised to understand French, then all your exhortations in Darija to "get on with it" will mean nothing. Few donkeys in Fez understand Modern Standard Arabic.
Feel free to write to me if you are having donkey problems. Next week, I'll discuss donkey training, reversing, how to do turn in a narrow street, the valuble art of creating handmade paper from your very own donkey dung and twenty must have fashion items to knit from donkey hair.