The word “Caleche” may not be familiar to you, if you’ve never spent a week or two in Morocco before. The word itself is a french, feminine noun which found it’s way to Morocco during the French Colonisation in the 1950’s. The term Caleche is now a commonly used name for what is formally known by most as a Barouche, or horse-drawn cart.
A caleche is a type of horse-drawn carriage with a retractable cover for sun-protection. These fanciful modes of transport became popularised in 19th century France, and were mostly used for leisurely journeys in the summer.
The Caleches of Marrakech are light carriages with small wheels at the front, and two larger wheels at the rear, with inside seats for four to six passengers. The carriages are usually drawn by two medium-large horses of equal height.
In Marrakech you can take a tour of the city by Caleche, which can last from 20 minutes up to 2 hours depending on the time you have designated. There are several main pick-up points within the medina and the New City; which you can find by using our free Marrakech Riad Travel Guide App. This is a great way to explore the city if you are tired from walking, as the caleches can often reach areas of town which are not accessible by car. The open top of the carriage, and the slow moving nature of the caleche ride allows for some brilliant photo opportunities of major landmarks and historical features.
In previous years, the horses used to draw Caleches in Morocco, were not well kept. Often malnourished and dehydrated, they were thin, lame and in constant pain from untreated harness wounds; which caused an uproar amongst animal activists. Thankfully, attention around this issue caused a charitable organisation called SPANA to step in and take action.
SPANA is an international charity which supports working animals around the world, and their Morocco branch based in Doudiat is a literal life-saver for so many animals in Marrakech. SPANA’s Caleche Horse Programme has influenced major improvement in the overall care, health and wellbeing of the working horses in Marrakech. By teaming up with local authorities, SPANA created a licensing scheme whereby horses must be regularly inspected on various health factors, for their owners to be able to continue using them for work. They must be well fed, well cared for and have access to farriery, dentistry and veterinary care before the owners can obtain or maintain their Caleche license.
You might notice that many horses have a blue “SPANA” tag around their ankle, which indicates that they have been micro-chipped and are being thoroughly monitored. The charity have also installed several free-to-use water troughs around the city, to combat animal dehydration.
Bravo to SPANA for all their hard work in improving the lives of working animals around the world.
So, next time you visit Marrakech why not try out a Caleche tour for yourselves?
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