I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Fes, Morocco. I found Mint Tea Tours here on... read more
I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Fes, Morocco. I found Mint Tea Tours here on... read more
Jamal knows the ins and outs of his city and he shares with passion and an outstanding english what he has studied and he has experienced himself living in the medina. Jamal gives us the possibility to get in touch with the local activieties in pottery, leather and carpets. He knows the right places to go, with no queues or big crowds. People in the showrooms we visited have been really friendly without being too pushy! Lovely experience, strongly recommended!
My wife and I recently traveled to Morocco with a friend and enjoyed a wonderfully life-changing experience thanks to the guidance of Mint Tea Tours. We are the kind of travelers who generally prefer to be on our own, even in the most unfamiliar of countries. However, the prospect of traversing the rugged landscape of Morocco in a car with a driver was appealing, and the opportunity the three of us had to create our own itinerary, working with Ellen and Jamal (the couple who run the company), was extraordinary. I should add that we thought the cost of Mint Tea Tours’ services was very reasonable, and the value of these services was phenomenal.
Mint Tea Tours put together a fifteen-day itinerary that perfectly suited our interests. Most remarkable was the way the trip was brilliantly “staged.” A quick leap into the bustle of Casablanca and Rabat was balanced by a relaxing time in the beautiful, “blue” mountain village of Chefchaouen. A deep dive into the incredible medina of Fes was followed by the extraordinary light and silence of the desert. The austerity of the Sahara was relieved by the lush garden oasis of Skoura. The voyage reached a real high point in our longer stay in Marrakech, where we explored with confidence the lanes of the medina and the boulevards of the French city beyond the medina’s walls. Our time in Morocco came to a close with a leisurely stay in the haunting beach town of Essaouira, where the sound of the surf lulled us to sleep. Our vacation was so well planned that we really didn’t want to leave, and since our return we constantly talk about the next trip to Morocco.
What made the actual trip so wonderful was, first and foremost, our remarkable driver, Hicham. Not only did he negotiate the often challenging mountain highways with patience and care, he also knew how to find his way through the densely crowded, narrow streets of country villages on market days. Beyond his skills as a driver, though, Hicham was an incredible resource. He shared with us his deep knowledge of Moroccan history, culture, and religion, and he was a thoughtful and good-natured intermediary for us as we met people in the souks, in the streets, and in roadside restaurants. By the end of our time together, we counted Hicham a dear friend.
Whenever possible, Mint Tea Tours booked us into traditional riads, older houses or guest-houses built around courtyard gardens. Our rooms were beautiful, cool (even in the heat of the summer), and very comfortable (sometimes even palatial). We generally ate our dinners at the riads—something that can often be arranged in advance—and the very best meals we had in Morocco were these luscious, “home-cooked” feasts. The people working in the riads were delightful in every way, eager to make our stay a joy and incredibly helpful.
Mint Tea Tours also arranged for great professional guides. Youssef Azarhoun in Chefchaouen made our exploration of his village a delight and convinced us that we want to return in the winter. Hicham Chakir in Fes was the perfect guide and colleague for over-educated tourists like us. We could have spent weeks sharing in his inexhaustible knowledge of Moroccan culture and relishing the sheer joy with which he displayed his mastery of the labyrinth that is the medina in Fes. Our driver Hicham also found us a wonderful guide in the remote and starkly beautiful hill village of Âït-Benhaddou: Mohamed’s dreams for his village’s future will remain with us forever.
In short, Mint Tea Tours made possible for us an absolutely perfect vacation, one which will not be only “once in a life-time.”
Getting around medina is a puzzle so having Jamal guiding us on a private tour of Fes was the best. He came to pick us up at our hotel and started our tour at with the medina and a wonderful background and history of the Fes. He was very detailed in his explanations of the city and its history. He took us to few places which we would have never found on our own. One such place was the restaurant for lunch. It was a beautiful place with the traditional Moroccan food and hospitality. For being in fes only a day, we got to see all the historical and tourist places along with few hidden gems. Jamal was very interactive throughout the day which kept the day enjoyable and went by way to quick. Defiantly the ONLY way to go through Fes for a full history and experience Of the town.
We did a private full day tour of Fes with Jamal and it was one of the best decision. He picked us from our hotel in outskirts of Fes to start the tour in a very clean and comfortable car. We visited many of the tourists spot as well as multiplr unknown treasures which we would have never found on our own. He made the entire day very enjoyable and very very imformative. He took time to explain everything in detail and made sure to relate to personal stories and experience where possible which made it a very enjoyable day. It is perfect if your in the town only for a day or two and want to see best of Fes. We stopped along many souks but Jamal was very clear about not feeing pressure to buy anything, it was a change from other tours we have experienced where you feel you have to buy something. I highly recommend the tour with Jamal to learn about Fes and its history.
We were planning a 9-day trip in Morocco to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and I knew better than to think I could drive there (and after seeing the drivers, especially in Casablanca and Marrakech, I knew I was right)! We (briefly) considered tours, but really wanted to customize our experience. I considered several private car/driver tours, but Mint Tea seemed the best fit for us, and I’m pleased to say that our experience with them could not have been better! It started the trip planning with Ellen who seemed to understand exactly what we were looking for. She offered to arrange for lodging for us, but I declined as my wife is pretty particular about where we stay. I had trouble finding lodging to our liking online in a few places, and Ellen was helpful in offering some suggestions. In hind-sight, I should have let Ellen book them all for us, as her suggestions were over-the-top. It seemed a bit sketchy having to do an international wire-transfer for a 50% deposit, but it is Morocco which is mostly a cash economy still! Ellen held our hand through this process and even more through the weeks that followed to plan out all the details of our trip – what we wanted to see, do, options, etc. Ellen prepared a very detailed and informative itinerary for us, we details and history of what we were going to do and see.
Our trip itself started in Casablanca (after a long trip from New York), where we spent the first day on our own. The next morning, our driver Mimoun was waiting for us in a clean, comfortable mini-van style Mercedes. He took us to Meknes and on to Volubilis where Mint Tea arranged a very knowledgeable private guide to explore the amazing Roman ruins. We were blown away. We went on to Fes for a couple of days, where Mimoun chauffeured us outside the medina, and another excellent guide, Azadine, gave us a great lesson in the history and culture of Fes – both the medina and the new city.
Following our time in Fes, Lotfi became our driver for the balance of our trip. We went through the Middle Atlas seeing Ifrane, the cedar forests, the Macaque monkeys, and on our way towards the desert. Lotfi knew the best authentic roadside places to stop, and did a great job of explaining the local culture and variations. Being Berber himself (as are Jamaal and Mimoun), we gained a much deeper appreciation of the culture. Over the next days, Lotfi took us to the Rissani souk, Erg Chebbi desert for an overnight into the Sahara (definitely a must-do! Even in the heat of July it was an amazing experience!!), Todra Gorge, Boumalne Dades, Skora, Ouarzazate, High Atlas mountains, an Argan oil cooperative, and ending in Marrakech. Throughout all this, Lotfi cared for our comfort, safety, and well-being while sharing his deep knowledge of his homeland in an entertaining and engaging way. Thanks to social media, we’re still in touch!
After our time in Morocco ended, and we went on to a week in Spain, a 10 day luxury Mediterranean cruise, and a week in Greece – a 30-day trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary – but it was our time in Morocco that we look back on most fondly. Thank you, Mint Tea Tours, for making our trip so memorable and enjoyable.
I recently returned, along with two of my friends, from a fifteen-day trip to Morocco organized by Mint Tea Tours. This voyage of discovery was wonderful in every way, and I commend Jamal and Ellen, who run the company, along with Hicham, our driver, for their professionalism, their wisdom, their patience, and their good humor in ensuring that we would enjoy a trip of a lifetime.
None of us had ever been to Morocco, and we contacted Ellen and Jamal upon reading the excellent reviews of Mint Tea Tours on TripAdvisor. For more than a year, we worked out an itinerary, discussed our personal goals for the vacation, and set out our priorities. We decided what kinds of hotels we wanted to stay at, and we established the pace of the trip. Ellen and Jamal proved excellent “listeners,” and they came to know us, which was vital in putting together a trip that we would find appealing. I also would like to point out that the three of us asked *many* questions along the way, and Ellen and Jamal always responded in a timely fashion, reassuring us that we would be in excellent hands.
They assigned Hicham to serve as our driver. What a fortunate decision! Hicham was excellent in every way. First of all, he is actually a terrific driver, which is essential in Morocco. But more importantly, he proved a great and knowledgeable companion. We learned about Moroccan culture, history, mores, religion, and more from him throughout every day. He listened carefully to our questions, and he helped us deepen our growing knowledge of his fascinating homeland. We were struck by his good sense and his good humor. He could read us. When we were tired, for instance, he was content for us to drive in quiet. When we were tired of shopping, he made sure that we had other activities to do. He recommended tasty, inexpensive, and healthy restaurants for lunch, and he helped us arrange dinner most evenings. When we mentioned that we wanted to hear Gnawa music, he worked out a visit to a small concert. Every day brought forth new experiences, most thanks to him.
For the most part, we stayed at riads. They were gorgeous. Generally-speaking, the people who worked at them were friendly, accommodating, and helpful. Whenever possible, we took our dinners at the riads where we stayed, and when we return to Morocco, we will certainly do that again.
We are very grateful to Ellen, Jamal, and Hicham for insuring that we had such a great experience in Morocco!