Exiting Marrakesh (Marrakech), the view seems to empty out like sand in an hourglass and becomes all sky. The highway to the south runs along a line of futuristic-looking lights and eventually arrives at the Jarjeer Mule And Donkey Refuge.
Terracotta cubist buildings mirror the minimalist logo of Jarjeer. The refuge is comprised of a home, stables, and corrals, as well as courtyards and fountains set in landscaping crisscrossed by footpaths, bees, and butterflies.
The refuge is the creation of Susan Machin and Charles Hantom, who were both lawyers in England before retiring and purchasing the land where the refuge is housed. The idea arose when the two worked with an animal rescue organization and took home a donkey that needed more long-term care. After someone else brought them another donkey, the idea of creating a sanctuary began to take form. The couple brought in dozens of equines, as well as several dogs.
A visit to the sanctuary is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Once animals are brought to the refuge, they stay for the rest of their lives and are never tethered. It’s truly a retirement home for donkeys who were working animals most of their lives. They roam free and are fed twice a day on alfalfa and sugar beets.
Some of the animals’ stories are truly horrifying and the marks still show on their bodies. Working donkeys are often abandoned if they become injured in Morocco and many arrive at the sanctuary in poor physical condition. Caleche horses often arrive starved because their owners can’t feed them without substantial business from tourists. However, the center does a great job of helping the animals rebound.
There are many tragedies in these animals’ backstories, but the overall experience of Jarjeer is uplifting. Witnessing the animals being comforted and at peace is an enlightening experience.