The traditional 500-year-old Al Drour calendar shows seasonal change written in the stars. The appearance of Suhail Star announces an imminent shift in weather.
At this time of year, as their ancestors for hundreds of years before them, natives of the Middle East look to the skies, searching for a particular star.
The Suhail star or Canopus appears in the early hours of August 24 due south before sunrise. Suhail is the second-brightest star after Sirius. Its appearance signals an end to the oppressive summer heat and the oncoming moderate weather.
Professor Hasan Al Naboodah explains the phenomenon, “Actually, it is the other way around. It is due to better weather that the Suhail star becomes visible.”
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Professor Hasan Al Naboodah is a historian and the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at a University in Al Ain. UAE.
He adds, “The ancient Arabs collected these observations to form a calendar that has proven itself consistent and useful for predicting the weather for travel and farming.”
Al Drour is a near-forgotten almanac. It is among Gulf’s oldest calendars. The legendary Arab navigator Ahmad ibn Majid referred to it more than 500 years ago.
Al Drour charts four different seasons divided by the appearance of stars and their heliacal risings and settings.
Each season is associated with different harvests, migration of birds and fish, and other critical weather information for settlers in the Gulf region through history.
People still consult Al Drour for the best time to plant and harvest crops, fishing for specific fish species, travel, and pearl-diving.
Al Drour, a 365-day calendar, is divided into three seasons, of 100 days each and a fourth of 60 days. The remaining five days are known as Al Khams Al Masrouqa, the five stolen days.
The calendar begins with Autumn, and the first 100 days are Al Safri or Al Sufari (the yellow leaves of Autumn). Winter follows with 100 days of Sheta, then the 100 days of summer, or Saif.
Early summer simmers into the 60 days of scorching Al Qaiz summer. The “stolen days” the remaining five days represent turbulent and unpredictable weather.
Al Naboodah says, “The calendar is the collected wisdom of hundreds of years. While today we can check the weather update on the internet, we can still refer to Al Drour and understand the environment around us.”
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According to the calendar, the appearance of the Suhail star signals the end of the sweltering summer heat.
“The name Suhail also means good-looking. It has other names too, Al Basheer Al Yamani, meaning the star of the south [from Yemen] that ushers Bushra or good news,” explained Al Naboodah.
“This star is seen as an omen of better times, better weather, new harvests, and the beginning of a new cycle. It marks the beginning for traveling for nomadic caravans.”
This weather change brings in the southern winds and a chance of rain. “They say to be wary of flash floods when Suhail appears. People living near valleys should take extra precautions during this period,” he added.
A historian explains the most popular myth related to this star. He goes on to say that the handsome Suhail or Canopus seduced and married the maiden Al Jauzah or Orion and then, in a fit of jealousy, murdered her.
He was then chased by Sirius, the dog star, to the south, where he remains to this day, all alone. In another version, Suhail tried to woo Al Jauzah, who refused his advances and pushed him to the southern heavens.