Donkeys in the Streets, Fès, Morocco

(Last Updated On: December 10, 2020)

The ancient medina of Fès is said to be the largest urbanized area in the world that prohibits motor vehicles. (There were a few motorbikes around, so it didn’t seem completely non-motorized.) In some parts of the world that might be a significant hardship, but in Morocco donkeys are often the vehicle of choice, and that is true in Fès as well. Thus, these non-motorized “vehicles” are allowed in the medina.

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Indeed, donkeys appear to be the UPS trucks of Fès.

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Donkeys are generally silent and can suddenly appear in the most unexpected of places. This means that visitors should learn a key word if they hope to safely walk the streets of the medina: “Balak!”

The donkey handlers shout “Balak! Balak!” — “Look out! Look out!” — as they maneuver their beasts through the narrow twisting streets. On hearing that call, a wise visitor will look quickly to ensure they are well out of the path of oncoming donkey traffic.

Don’t think you haven’t been adequately warned!

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