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Marrakech: Bedouin Woman Takes The Leftovers

Timothy M. Leonard

He said good-bye to the barber, nodded to the man with silver hair in his chair getting a trim, reconnecting with wisdom and daily affirmations and passed an old man smoking his Cuban cigar in a shaft of sunlight.

Well-heeled fashionable Cadiz women with and without their children in wheeled prams shoveling sweets into their mouths paraded past the Iglesia de San Juan de Dios.

With its splendid wide inlaid stones, lined with palms, the edifice is flanked by cafes with ‘Novelty’ metal chairs holding tired tourists and relaxed natives smoking, drinking coffee, talking in multiple tongues, eating soft hot pastries, studying creased paper maps.

Waiters in white starched shirts scurried from table to table. They placed their orders with women behind counters wearing white laboratory tech coats. The lone plaza resident, a tall black bearded madman with untied tennis shoes, roamed the perimeter looking for someone to hustle, looking for Charity’s leftovers.


I remembered the Bedouin woman covered in black who hovered near me in Marrakech when I had chicken, rice, bread and water on a side street. I sat near the street away from chickens turning on their gas fired circles. I was always living on the edge of somewhere else in the world and understood her motivation. Hunger.

She approached me extending her hand. “May you have blessings and prosperity,” she said.

“May you be at peace,” I answered in Arabic and waved her away. “Not now. No money. I will leave food for you. Wait.”

She glided across the street to wait trapped between parked cars watching through fabric slits. Her eyes were the world. I watched her watch people eating. She was calm and silent. Wild cats roamed their malnourished skeletons around eaters’ feet staying away from a waiter’s swift shoe. She watched and waited.

I fed abstract scraps to cats. They fought over bones in the dust hissing and dragging their plunder to shelter. The Red City was full of dust as caravans full of salt, gold and slaves moved north and south across the Sahara.

Feeding cats became a ritual in Morocco for me. A passion for the hungry animals. We were all in the same fix, roaming, lost, looking, trying to survive in desperate circumstances. They were everywhere.

I didn’t eat everything and when I left the table to pay and she closed in.

Marrakesh. photos: Tim Leonard.Her blackness swooped like a dream across the pavement. We were a team. My leaving to pay meant the waiter, needing to figure the bill, couldn’t clear the table. She was free to collect everything.
Like magic she produced a plastic bag from under her black robe, picked up the plate and dumped everything inside; bones, meat, rice, tomatoes. The works.

She was fast and efficient. She glided away to her position across the street in shadows. I paid, walked past her and we locked eyes.

I was naked, she was covered in her belief. Her invisible clear eyes flashed a brief recognition and I nodded. She smiled under her veil.

Timothy M. Leonard is a Vietnam Veteran and served with the Screaming Eagles. He graduated from University of Oregon. He has lived in Australia, Bali, China, Ireland, Israel, Saipan and Kuwait. Contact

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Tags: storySection: Features
Location: Africa, Morocco
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