By Horse-Cabs, Marrakesh
Impressively since the animal welfare organisation Spana, set up by a British mother and daughter in the early 60s to educate the owners of donkeys, mules and horses in the training and care of their animals, the state of these animals seems to be greatly improving.
Spana's role include the inspection and license of carriage horses used in the caleches and distribute more humane harnessing equipment.
The horses hooves are branded so apparently if you notice any problems you can report these to the police or to the Centre Hospitalier pour Animaux (visitors are welcome here too apparently!) at 04303110
Anyway check out that you are happy with how your horse seems to be cared for, check the prices for whether you have a destination in mind such as out to Marjorelle Gardens, the Palmeraie or for a sunset tour around the city walls which therefore might be best to negotiate how much per hour (and rates should be on a chart inside the caleche) which is about 80-100 dirham per hour (a bargain!!) to relax and take in the atmosphere from such a birds eye vantage point!
An alternative to taxis as a means of transport, and a tourist attraction in their own right, the caleches are a distinctive feature of the city’s roads. You can use them to travel from A to B, as you would a taxi (they are a popular way to reach the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, for instance) or book one to take you on a sightseeing tour. We did the latter, thinking it would be a way for me to see parts of the city too distant to walk to on crutches. We wanted to tour the city walls as suggested in our guidebook, but were initially a little disappointed that our route took us on a circuit outside the walls rather than inside. However we enjoyed seeing some different streets and aspects to the city, and had a pleasant late afternoon ride.
As with everything in Marrakesh it is essential to haggle about the price. We checked beforehand with our hotel proprietor as to what would be reasonable and stuck to our guns, paying 250 dirhams rather than the 400 originally quoted.
You’ll find a row of caleches waiting for business in the Place de Foucauld between the Djamaa el Fna and Katoubia Mosque, as well as outside the Majorelle Gardens and other strategic points
The horse drawn carriages are known as caleches and are seen all over Marrakesh, lined up waiting for customers near the sights, or winding between the busy traffic.
I hired one from near Djemma el Fnaa, to take me to Les Jardins Majorelle. The driver pointed out a price list. 80dh for an hour. I think it was 11dh for a single trip within the medina, 15dh for a single journey outside the walls. Check first though.
Soon we were trotting along the roads of Marrakesh, jammed between the petrol fuelled vehicles. We then turned off into a quieter area with orange trees growing in the gardens of large detached houses.
Arriving at the gardens, my driver indicated where he'd be waiting and his carriage number.
I looked around the gardens, which was a pleasant experience, but I wasn't sure of how long I'd been there (I rarely wear a watch on holiday) so I didn't get to visit the museum, but I intended to return later in my stay.
I returned to my caleche, and we clip clopped back to Djemma el Fnaa. I'd had longer than an hour, so I was expected to pay more, (I think 160dh) but as I didn't have this money in change, the driver just smiled and accepted 100dh.
I found this a great way to travel around, but some people may be a bit upset by the way that these drivers use a whip to speed their horses along. It can also be a bit nerve wracking, winding amongst cars, bikes lorries etc, but the horses seem quite untroubled.
A nice way to move around is the House Cab, not for moving inside the Medina, because have so narrow streets that will not move easily ... but around the Medina, for go to the Menara, or to suround the city walls at the sunset ...
There are two big House Cab stops at the Koutoubia and at the Liberty Square ... you can also stop them if you see them at the streets ...
From my journal:
‘We set off around the outskirts of the city along wide avenues to the Kasbah Bab (gate), through narrow lanes in the medina, with people selling shoes, clothes, coffee and spices. Quite an experience. We stop at the Djema el Fna, which is quite amazing, with people trading, eating, entertaining or just watching. A really brilliant night out.’
When we booked our trip to Marrakesh, a tour through the city in a horse carriage was included. Otherwise I would not have booked it, but I must say it was nice!
We went on a night tour through Marrakesh and the sound of the horses' hoofs on the cobble stone was special! I felt a little sorry for the horses having to be in all that traffic, but they seemed to be used to it!
A slow paced, in the face of Marrakech, way to see the area Once again you have to bargain. We took our tour on Friday Everything was closed down! Interesting way to take a tour., at least the roads were clear !
This was our first horse and carriage trip. I'm glad we saved it for Marrakech rather than say....Brugge. Why? .... well we got to hold the traffic up... ;o) haha.
And we also were able to take pictures that we could not from the hop on and off bus.
But best of all....we were in an exotic place and taking the slow lane.....and enjoying it thoroughly.
Plus it was romantic!!... :o)
Tip - negotiate your price first.....after all there are plenty of other drivers waiting.
Then sit back, relax .... and enjoy the ride! :o)
A different way to get from A to B or sightsee is via Caleches. I caught one from just outside the Jemaa el-Fna. There were dozens of them lined up. I had been told what I should be paying although most of course were offering rides for a lot more. Sticking to my guns, I passed one after the other until one finally said, ok, I will take you. Maybe he figured something was better than nothing. It was a gentle clip-clop ride back to the hotel.
This is a beautiful way to travel around Marrakech if you can get used to they death-defying road rules! It's also supposed to be only a little more expensive than petit taxis, although I always get over-charged for everything despite my " C'est trop cher!" protests. I think it's my passion for pearls!!!
These horse-drawn cabs are available for practical one way trips or luxury round the city tours.
Take a ride in a Horse-drawn carriage, take a covered one if the weather is too hot. 80 Dh for 1 hour, 50 Dh for 1/2 hour, 30 Dh for a quick ride. You can tell the driver where to go, or just let him wander around. Fix the price before starting!!
This was my favourite form of transport in Marrakech. It's not meant to be used as a taxi - they are slower and more expensive than taxis, but I ended up using them for short journeys because they are wonderful. After the chaos and commotion of Marrakech, stepping into a caleche is like entering a bubble. All of a sudden the world slows down, even if all around you things carry on at the same crazy speed. It's so relaxing.
A caleche doesn't have a meter like a taxi, but it does have a set of fixed prices printed on the inside of the carriage for you to read. Good luck trying to get on without first negotiating with the driver demanding a much higher price. Despite this it was easier to get a reasonable price with a caleche than a taxi. The current price is 40 dirhams for most journeys in the city, but expect to pay more.
I think the best way to get a good price is to grab them after, on their way back from, dropping off a passenger. If you try to get one of them as they are lined up in Djemaa el Fna they will probably not want to move for less than a hundred dirhams. In fact they might not want to go anywhere short distance, as they can wait for passengers who want to do the tour of the walls.