Once in a while we come across a person in our lives that allows us to understand the meaning of dignity. It is Mustapha El Harchi, a disabled painter by mouth from Morocco’s seaside artist colony of Essaouira that serves as a reminder how self-dignity and self-preservation of the soul are free. I first met Mustapha El Harchi five years ago. I was strolling just past the wide entrance to Essaouira’s old medina and walked right past him. I did a double take, then circled back. It only took a glimpse of Mustapha painting by mouth for an immediate recollection of Jim Sheridan’s film “My Left Foot” staring Daniel Day-Lewis. Thus began a story of acknowledgement and friendship.
With only 24 hours in Essaouira there is much to see and do in this simply spectacular seaside artist colony. Essaouira offers a wide array of sites and sounds that can fill the pallet of any Moroccan traveler regardless of age. The small coastal town of Essaouira is popular with surfers and has a hippy, laid-back feel – perfect for those who want to spend more time relaxing than bartering. In the ’60s and ’70s, Essaouira was a pitstop on the hippie trek from Marrakesh. Jimi Hendrix made the pilgrimage, as did Bob Marley and Cat Stevens. Essaouira boasts lovely white-washed and blue-shuttered houses, colonnades, thuya wood workshops, art galleries and mouthwatering seafood.