Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5bf98f6d76-gckwl Total loading time: 6.051 Render date: 2021-04-21T11:56:48.431Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Bedouin star-lore in Sinai and the Negev

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009


Until the twentieth century the Bedouin of the Sinai peninsula and the Negev desert were no less dependent upon knowledge of the heavenly bodies than their nomadic ancestors of countless generations in the Arabian peninsula. The stars were as vital to a Bedouin trying to find his way in almost featureless stretches of the desert waste as they were to a sailor navigating the open sea. Moreover, the Bedouin needed stable indications of the seasons of the year so that they could regulate the annual activities necessary for agriculture and livestock raising; the only calendar they knew was the Muslim lunar calendar, the months of which rotate among the seasons of the year, at times appearing in the winter, at others in the spring, summer, or autumn. They found these indications in the positions of the stars. Finally, their preoccupation with the heavenly bodies and their nightly exposure to starry skies naturally led the inhabitants of the desert, like many other peoples, to find, in the movements of the stars, explanations for the natural disasters to which they were always so vulnerable.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1974

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1 Since 1970, I have been collecting and studying Bedouin poetry in Sinai and the Negev on behalf of the Institute for Desert Research, Midrashat Sde-Boker, in the Negev.

2 Murray, G. W.Sons of Ishmael, London, 1935, 164–6Google Scholar; Musil, Alois, Arabia Petraea, III, Wien, 1908Google Scholar, passim; Musil, Alois, The manners and customs of the Rwala Bedouins, New York, 1928Google Scholar, passim; Shuqayr, Naum Bey, Ta'rīkh Sīnā wa ‘l-'Arab, Cairo, 1916, 356–7Google Scholar.

3 Transliteration note. I have attempted to maintain a close identity between the spoken Bedouin word and its Classical Arabic counterpart, in so far as such a counterpart exists. In general, my transliteration is consistent with that used in BSO AS. None the less some notes will clarify aspects of Bedouin pronounciation reflected in the transliteration.

A. (1) represents both and and is pronounced as the emphatic correlate of ‘th’ in ‘this’

(2)dh represents and is pronounced as ‘th’ in ‘this’

(3) th represents and is pronounced as ‘th’ in ‘think’

(4)g represents (except in the root ) and is pronounced as in ‘g’ ‘give’

B. Diphthongs:

(1) aw represents and is pronounced as either ‘o’ (as in ‘go’) or ‘ow’ (as in ‘cow’)

(2) ay represents and is pronounced either as in ‘day’ or as ‘i’ in ‘pine’

C. (1) the Arabic hamza is shown by the mark’ (as in gabā'il)

(2) this mark is not used with the opening vowel of a word (thus astabā) or between a preposition and a definite article in liaison (thus lil-bint instead of li ‘l-bint)

D. The Arabic tashdīd is shown as a double letter (as in fakkar)

E. the Arabic tā marbūṭah is simply shown as h (if silent) and t (if pronounced)

F. the Arabic tanwīn is shown as: an, in, un

G. the third person singular pronominal suffix is shown as (i) h (as, farasih ‘his mare’; ma'ih ‘with him’)

4 The poem to which these lines belong originated in 1877, according to Musil, , who transcribed it in Manners, 182–6Google Scholar. It was recited to me twice in Sinai: by 'Awdah Sulayman 'Alīyān of the Aḥaywāt; and by Ḥusayn Salīm ἤasan of the 'Ayāydah. The two Sinaitic versions of the poem varied somewhat, but the present lines were conveyed identically. In each the rider was shielding his mount's throat (adhrῐ naḥarhā; i.e. steering it away) from Canopus, a clear indication that he was not travelling due south. Musil, however, conveys the action in other words, translating the lines as if the rider were indeed travelling south. Musil's error, however, is evident from a reading of the text of the story that was related to him with the poem. It specifies that the author composed the poem while travelling ‘from Jauf to Hayil’; i.e. south-east. Likewise, if Polaris were indeed reflected on a thigh of the camel, the latter could not be travelling due south (cf. Manners, 355).

5 I first heard this saying from al-Ḥajj Zmaylī Sa'id Sālim of the ‘Alaygāt.

6 Manners, 273–4 (transliteration mine). Musil translates nijm simply as ‘stars’, whereas it certainly refers specifically to the Pleiades, as the term ‘the star’ has done since the remote past (cf. Lyall, C. J. (ed. and tr.), The Mufaḍḍaliydt, 3 vols., Oxford and London, 19181924Google Scholar, no. XXIII, I. 7; vide also Jurdak, M. H., Astronomical dictionary: English–Arabic, Beirut, 1950Google Scholar, ‘Najm’, ‘Pleiades’).

7 I first heard this proverb from Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir of the Tiyāhā 'Awāmrah.

8 I first heard this proverb from Muḥammad al-A'ṣam of the Tiyāhā Gdayrāt al-A'ṣam.

9 Vide Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Ursae Majoris’.

10 Vide The Mufaḍḍaliyāt, no. xcvni, 1. 15.

11 cf. Allen, R. H., Star-names and their meaning, 1899Google Scholar(reprint New York, 1963), 432–3; Allen relates a version told to a European traveller near the Persian Gulf, according to which the daughters do suspect Polaris and are thirsting for revenge, but are waiting for Canopus to aid them.

12 I first heard these lines from Salīm Abū Fhayd of the Tarābin Ḥasāblih.

13 I heard these lines from Ḥmayd as-Sudānī of the 'Azāzmah. Yindamā means ‘to be liable for blood revenge’.

14 Canopus itself is anticipated among the Bedouin of the Negev Hills by the sprouting, in early September, of the white-flowered Urginea maritima (L.) Bak., which they call: ūd is-Suhayl — the Canopus reed. According to Swaylim Sulaymān Abū Bilāyā of the 'Azāzmah Sarāḥin, the Bedouin know, upon seeing this plant, that Canopus will rise in approximately a month and a half (when, indeed, it rises at dawn). For examples of the relief felt by Bedouin in north-eastern Arabia at the heliacal appearance of Canopus, cf. Dickson, H. R. P., The Arab of the desert, fourth ed., London, 1967, 51, 248, 254Google Scholar.

15 I heard this saying from 'Ayd 'Awwad Jum'ah of the Muzaynah. Sayl is the Bedouin term for a flash-flood. The pre-Islamic Bedouin also preserved in rhyme their fear of flash-floods following the heliacal rising of Canopus (vide Pellat, Charles, ‘Dictons rimés, anwa' et mansions lunaires chez les Arabes’, Arabica, II, 1, 1955, 21)Google Scholar; for rhymed references to the onset of rains at the rising of Canopus in south-western Arabia, vide Serjeant, R. B., Prose and poetry from Hadramawt, London, 1951, p. 164Google Scholar, No. 51.

16 I heard this saying from Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir of the Tiyāhā. Personally, I have witnessed, in mid-October, what the Bedouin of the Negev Hills consider a constant phenomenon; namely, that camels who have been sleeping facing the south get up and turn to the north, when Canopus appears, to avoid exposing their chests to the chill south wind which ‘that star brings’. According to the eleventh-century astronomer, al-Birūnī, (The chronology of ancient nations tr., Sachau, E., London, 1879, 337)Google Scholar, the pre-Islamic Bedouin also anticipated the onset of the pre-dawn chill by the position of the stars. Instead of Canopus' rising, however, they looked for the conjunction of the new moon with Sagittarius, which also occurs in October. On conjunctions, vide p. 593, n. 47, below.

17 Al-Burbārah appears to be the general name for Sirius in Sinai and the Negev (cf. Shuqayr, , Ta'rīkh, 356)Google Scholar. Perhaps it is derived from the barking noise of the ‘dog-star’ (C. B.). On two occasions I heard it called al-Mirzim, a name which the ancients indeed gave to Sirius' companion star, β Canis Majoris (vide Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Mirzam’). Al-Khawīyānah was another name attributed to Sirius (by Ḥusayn Salīm of the 'Ayāydah). Perhaps it is derived from the pre-Islamic month Khawwān.

18 The fact of the wasm's duration being 75 days was first told me by 'Ayd 'Awwād of the Muzaynah, and corroborated by most other informants. It is my own inference, however, that the Bedouin of Sinai and the Negev once understood the wasm to end with the first appearance of Sirius at nightfall; none of my informants stated the fact to me directly. Indeed, I often heard a different calculation, which will be dealt with in p. 589, n. 33, below. None the less: (1) Sirius does rise approximately 75 days after the Pleiades; and (2) the Bedouin of the Syrian desert (although their seasonal calculations diifered considerably from those of the Sinai and Negev Bedouin) also deemed the first appearance of Sirius at nightfall to introduce the following season, ash-shitā. (Musil, , Manners, 8Google Scholar.)

19 cf. Musil, op. cit., for the durations of winter and spring according to the Bedouin, Rwala, and Dickson, (Arab of the desert, 247–8)Google Scholarfor corresponding information regarding north-eastern Arabia where the rainy season is also called the wasm (but not, apparently, wasm ath-Thurayyā).

20 According to 'Ayd 'Awwād of the Muzaynah, the ‘40 days’ is divided into two parts. In the first 20 days, the waters sink into the ground; in the second 20 they enter the plants and bushes, bringing them up for the ensuing spring season.

21 A naw (also nau') was anciently one of the 28 divisions of the year each associated with the rising of a specific star (vide Pellat, ‘Dictons rimés’, passim). Pellat's heliacal risings, however, which were based on Classical Arabic sources, are from two to six weeks earlier than those which I have observed in Sinai and the Negev, and which were confirmed by Mr. Hacke of the Lasker Planetarium, Tel Aviv. On the other hand, Dickson, (Arab of the desert, 51, 248, 254)Google Scholarreports for Canopus, for example, a heliacal rising in north-eastern Arabia that corresponds with Pellat's Classical sources, who probably compiled their information in the same general area, such as Ibn Qutaybah (his main source), a native of Kufa in southern Iraq. It is also worthy of note that incongruities often exist in the reporting of astral movements, such as in two studies by Serjeant, R. B.: ‘Star-calendars and an almanac from south-west Arabia’, Anthropos, XLIX, 3–4, 1954, 437Google Scholar; and Fisher-folk and fish-traps in al-Baḥrain’, BSO AS, xxxi, 3, 1968, 513Google Scholar. According to the calculations of both areas, as related, some stars (such as Canopus) appear earlier than in Sinai and the Negev; some appear later (the Pleiades and Aldebaran); and some appear at the same time (Betelgeuse and Antares). Such risings would not be astronomically possible.

By extension naw came to mean season. Often, however, naw is mentioned without an attendant season, in which case it means the rabī', or spring. In this context we find it, for example, in the line of a poem by 'Anayz Abū Sālim of the Tarābin Ḥasāblih. Writing to someone who had wronged him he confessed that he was too weak to wreak vengeance upon him, but warned that his strength would one day return. To express this expectation he borrowed the image of the returning spring whose pasture, likewise, brings strength to the herds. He says:

Wi nuṣbur limmā yiṣīr 'ishib ish-shafā kawm

wi tirabbi' il-jagmah 'aiā naw dāyir

‘We shall persevere until the grasses on the heights grow tall

and the she-camel grazes when the rabī' returns’.

22 Although most of the informants recalled the rhyme endings rishī and ish, there was much confusion about which stars were seen on the same horizon (some of the proposed combinations being impossible) and which seasons they indicated. This version appears to be most correct; I heard it from Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir of the Tiyāhā.

23 Communication from Mr. Hacke.

24 I heard this saying from Sulaymān Naṣṣār al-Hirsh of the Bayāīyin al-Hrūsh. Canopus' role in letting rains and dates fall may account for its Arabic name, Suhayl; the common word for diarrhoea, ishāl, is derived from the same root (C. B.).

25 Manners, 8 (transliteration mine). Dickson (p. 247) heard this saying in north-eastern Arabia.

26 An alternative line is: Ath-Thurayyā, 'addil ignī ‘Under the Pleiades, let the branch lie flat’. Because the date-bearing branch has become heavy-laden, the Bedouin lift it over a near-by frond, thus sharing the weight of the new cluster between the branch and the frond. The branch remains thus until the two-thirds of the green dates that naturally fall have fallen. (Communication from Shaykh 'Abdāllah Darwish of the Muzaynah Ṣakhānah.) The preceding material on date cultivation, including the rhyme, was told to me by 'Ayd 'Awwād of the Muzaynah and Salira ibn Jāzī of the Tarābin Ḥasāblih. Pre-Islamic rhymes collating the stages of date-palm cultivation with the appearance of stars are related in Pellat, (‘Dictons rimés’, 23–4)Google Scholar. Pellat's rhymes do not collate these various stages with the asterisms that were indicated to me, however, because he cites these stars as rising a month earlier than they do in Sinai and the Negev, (vide p. 586Google Scholar, n. 21, above).

27 Al-Jawzā is generally identified as Betelgeuse and is therefore rendered as such here. In the opinion of 'Ayd 'Awwād, however, al-Jawzā is the three stars comprising Orion's belt. Al-Jawzā was also the Arabic name by which the entire constellation, Orion, was called in ancient times. (Vide Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Orion’.)

28 An alternative line is: Al-Burbārah, giṭ' -ignī ‘Under Sinus, the branch is cut’ ('Ayd 'Awwād and Salim ibn Jāzī).

29 I heard this line from Ḥusayn Salim of the 'Ayāydah, a tribe that has numerous date groves along the Great Bitter Lake. Sha 'arī () refers to a system of loading two sacks on the back of a pack animal so that each sack protrudes from an opposite side, like saddlebags. A loop ('arwah; plur. 'arī, 'arāwī) is fastened to each corner of the sack, where a small stone (drāh) is placed inside to serve as an anchor for the loop. When the sacks are loaded the loops of the opposing sacks are brought together and a stick (shi ā) is placed through them to hold them fast (yishi ).

30 Allen, (Star names, 398)Google Scholar, citing the astronomer, al-Bīrūni, claims that the name Thurayvā is derived from tharwan ‘abundance’ [sic], ‘because of the plenty produced in the pastures and crops by the attendant rains’. I suggest, however, that it is rather derived from the Bedouin word tharā, meaning ‘moisture in the ground’; i.e. Thurayyā. is the star that brings tharā to the ground. As to the exact use of the word tharā, for example, we have a line from a poem sent as a missive to an imprisoned friend by Jum'ah 'Id Dakhlāllah of the Tarābin Ḥasāblih, in which, trying to describe the emptiness he feels in his friend's absence, he thus analogizes:

Al-ar 'ugbak, nāshfih 'an tharāhā

‘The earth, since you are gone, is dry of its moisture’.

31 I heard this saying from Mūsā al-'Aṭāwnah of the Tiyāhā al-'Aṭāwnah. Yinshil means ‘to draw something up from below, such as water from a well’.

32 According to some informants (Ḥajj Zmaylī of the 'Alaygāt, 'Ayd 'Awwād, and Musa. al-'Aṭāwnah) the ‘sign of the Pleiades’ begins when the Pleiades rise in the east with the moon and accompany it across the sky. For the pre-Islamic origin of this calculation, cf. al-Bīrūnī, (Chronology, 336)Google Scholar: ‘When full-moon is complete and stands with the Pleiades, then you get the beginning of the cold season, the winter’. Al-Biruni (ibid.), also cites another saying which identified the end of winter with such a conjunction on the third day of the month. Contemporary Bedouin reckon this conjunction to signify the beginning of summer—awwal gay (Swaylim Abū Bilāyā of the 'Azāzmah).

33 The Bedouin also express a different calculation which arrives at the sum of 77 days, but includes Sirius in it rather than after it. They di%'ide the period into the dominions of: the Pleiades, 25 nights; Aldebaran, 14 nights; Betelgeuse, 24 nights; and Sirius, 14 nights ('Ayd 'Awwād, Salīm ibn Jāzī, and Ḥājj Zmaylī). Shuqayr, (Ta'rikhSīnā, 356)Google Scholarrelates a slightly different pattern: the Pleiades, 14 nights; Aldebaran, 24 nights; Betelgeuse, 14 nights; and Sirius, 25 nights. However, neither of these patterns reflects the true time-lapse between the respective risings of these stars. In reality, 25 days elapse between the respective appearances of the Pleiades, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, and Sirius; a total of 75. The appearance of Sirius thus ended the wasm period, and inaugurated ash-shitā, the winter.

34 Vide The Mufaḍḍaliyāt, no. XCVI, 1. 11.

35 I heard this poem recited by 'Awdah Sulaymān of the Aḥaywāt Ḥamādāt. The second hemistich, containing the reference to the Pleiades, is apparently a popular image in Bedouin poetry. I encountered it in a poem recited by Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir of the Tiyāhā, and it can be found in a poem transcribed by Musil, (Arabia Petraea, III, 245)Google Scholar. Musil translates zāmī as ‘scattered’ (‘zerstreut’); however, it should be rendered, literally, as ‘tall, or protruding’. It is generally used in reference to tall grain; e.g. a Bedouin may say: Shufi zawmit iz-zara' ‘I have seen the tall stalks of grain’ (Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir). There is also a saying: In zawwam, 'awwam ‘If (the grain) is tall, it floats’; i.e. it waves in the wind (Mūsā al-'Aṭāwnah). The word gudhlih means ‘a forelock’ (cf. Musil, , Arabia Petraea, III, 160)Google Scholar.

36 I heard these lines from 'Ayd 'Awwād. A raw is a narrow and shallow wādī.

37 1 heard this saying from 'Awdah Sulaymān of the Aḥaywāt. Perhaps it belonged exclusively to that tribe, for Musil, also heard it among them (Arabia Petraea, III, 7)Google Scholar. Musil, however, recorded the word for hills as brūz (lit. ‘that which protrudes’). My informant related it with the common word, ijbāl.

38 Manners, 296. The name Aldebaran, which comes from Arabic, means ‘the follower’, who, according to a legend, was wooing the Pleiades (Allen, , Star names, 389Google Scholar; Jurdak, , Astronomical dictionary, 188)Google Scholar. Thus, the name Aldebaran finds its exact parallel in th e Syrian desert, where it is called at-Twaybi', a diminutive form of ‘the follower’.

39 I heard these lines from Ḥusayn Salīm of the 'Ayāydah. Zawzā is a verb meaning ‘to prance (a calf)’. (For more on the ḥidāwī, vide Shuqayr, , Ta'rikh Sīnā, 346–7Google Scholar.)

40 Communication from Mūsā al-'Aṭāwnah. The following material on winter-grain agriculture was largely related by the same informant, and subsequently corroborated by Muṣliḥ ibn 'Āmir of the Tiyāhā and Sulaymān Naṣṣār of the Bayāīyīn.

41 This was told to me by 'Ayd 'Awwād of the Muzaynah. For the antiquity of these beliefs, cf. al-Bīrūnī, (Chronology, 344)Google Scholar, who cites the Bedouin as considering the absence of the Pleiades from the sky ‘the worst and most unhealthy period of the whole year’; and quotes the Prophet as thus saying ‘When the Star [the Pleiades] rises, all harm rises from the earth’.

42 In the Negev I was also told that if ‘a red star’ (i.e. Mars) ‘hits’ the Pleiades there will be rainfall and pasture in the coming year (Swaylim Abū Bilāyā of the 'Azāzmah and Mūsā al-'Aṭāwnah of the Tiyāhā). Indeed, Mars sometimes ‘enters’ the Pleiades and sometimes ‘misses’ them (Mr. Hacke). The diphthong in Uḥaymir is pronounced as ‘i’ in ‘pine’.

43 I heard this poem recited by its author, Ḥamdān Abū Salāmah Abū Mas'ūd of the Muzaynah. The word thi'ūl means the ‘downpour of a cloudburst’; a rijd is ‘a group of cumulus clouds’; a khalkhūl is ‘a mountain ravine’.

44 This was told to me by 'Ayd 'Awwād and Salim ibn Jāzī. In the Negev it was corroborated by Salām Sulaymān al-Wajj of the Tiyāhā al-Janābib.

45 I was apprised of this inauspicious period by Salīm ibn Jāzī of the Tarābin and Ḥmayd as-Sudānī of the 'Azāzmah Sarāḥin. It is possible that the duration of seven days was arbitrarily based upon a medieval astrological calculation rather than on the Bedouin's own observation. The Arab astrologers’ solar zodiac divided the heavenly sphere into 12 consecutive sections, each one extending 30° and dominated by an asterism. Thus, as the moon was calculated to move eastward by 13½° each night, it would indeed travel ‘through’ three constellations in seven days. In point of fact, however, the ecliptic of the moon takes a short cut, passing between Scorpio β and δ, but then considerably north of the remainder of this elongated constellation, on its way to Sagittarius. It thus takes less than six nights to run this course. (Calculations supplied by Mr. Hacke.)

By the same token, it should be pointed out that the medieval astrologers' lunar zodiac, the ‘Stations of the Moon’, contain only six stations (nos. 16–21) in this area of conjunction (vide Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Moon stations’). None the less, the Bedouin insist that this period lasts for seven nights. Shuqayr, (Ta'rikh Sīnā, 357)Google Scholarwhose treatment of this subject is very inaccurate, nevertheless provides a possible solution to the problem. He includes the star Sa'd al-Dhābiḥ (Capricorn α and β) in the area of conjunction. Sa'd al-Dhābiḥ was anciently considered the twenty-second moon station; thus the moon would necessarily pass by it on the seventh night of its conjunction (vide Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Sa'd al-Dhabih’).

46 The source of the Bedouin appellation of Libra as the ‘head’ of the scorpion can be traced back to the Chaldeans, who considered it the scorpion's claws. This conception of the zodiac as consisting of 11 constellations prevailed among the ancient Greeks and early Romans as well (Encyclopaedia Britannica, eleventh ed., ‘Zodiac’). The medieval Arab astronomers, inheriting their astronomy from the Greeks, also named the two brightest stars of Libra (α and β) ‘the southern claw’ (zubenelgenubi) and ‘the northern claw’ (zubeneschamali) respectively (Jurdak, , Astronomical dictionary, 299)Google Scholar.

47 This version of the moon's journey through as-smayyiḥ was related by Salīi ibn Jāzī. By ‘conjunction’ the Bedouin actually understood that the moon was on the same meridian as the star with which it was supposed to be conjoined, and not necessarily in proximity with it. Apparently they knew the moon's actual route; e.g. Salīm ibn Jāzī could indicate that the moon passed ‘just under’ al-Baldih, which is indeed precise.

Shuqayr, (Ta'rīkh Sīnā, 357)Google Scholaralso discusses as-smayyiḥ and its influence but does not call it by this name; instead, he calls the entire area al-'aqrab ‘the scorpion’. He also gives a different account of the moon's itinerary, but his successive ‘stations’ are astronomically impossible, indicating that he was misinformed. The attempt by Murray, (Sons of Ishmael, 165)Google Scholarto explain Shuqayr's presentation also contains obvious errors.

48 While it might seem strange to call a period of prohibition by a name derived from a root denoting permission (smḥ), I was informed by Ibrāhīm 'Id Abū-Karsh of the Jabalīyah Luhaybāt, a man reputedly knowledgeable in astrology, that misleading appellations are a subterfuge often employed in the realm of magic to avoid arousing evil spirits. In the Negev Hills, for example, a scorpion caught and burned for the purpose of immunizing an infant against scorpion-stings, is called a hare: arnabah. (Communication from Sālim ‘Awdah aṭ-Ṭimṭāwī of the 'Azāzmah 'Aṣīyāt.)

Musil, (Manners, 390)Google Scholar, moreover, relates that the Rwalā Bedouin of the Syrian desert generally use the word samḥ for the number 7 instead of the correct Arabic word sab'. They believe the latter word to be ‘wholly under the domination of the spirits; anyone pronouncing it irritates the evil spirits and repels the good’. Accordingly, we might also infer that the name smayyiḥ, is merely the diminutive of samḥ, being derived from its supposed duration of seven days.

Musil apparently was not informed about as-smayyiḥ, but did receive confused fragments on the subject. Thus he relates (Arabia Petraea, III, 208) that ‘sexual intercourse with one's wife is forbidden on 10 July, because on that night al-Baldih is half-way between the moon and the Pleiades, and exerts an incurable, evil influence; such, too, is the situation on 10 August, in regard to the Gran stars [sic]’. (Grān is not the name of an asterism; it means ‘conjunction’—C. B.) For an explanation of the name al-Baldih, vide Jurdak, , Astronomical dictionary, 221Google Scholar.

49 These lines were recited to me by Salim ibn Jāzī, who attributed them to Abū Zayd. The verb harag means ‘to slip out of its sheath (a sword)’. In the version of these lines recorded by Shuqayr, (Ta'rīkh Sīnā, 357)Google Scholarhe uses the general word for ‘to slip away’: harab. The term ḥamād refers to a ‘desert flat, strewn with stones’.

50 I heard these lines from Salīm ibn Jāzī. Shuqajrr, loc. cit., presents them too, but begins them without the word bayn ‘between’. He thus concludes that only these two months of the year (the conception and birth of the game) are free from the influence of as-smayyiḥ.

51 Ta'rīkh Sīnā, 356.

52 I heard this line from 'Awdah Sulaymān of the Aḥaywāt.

53 Manners, 8–9; Musil erroneously identifies ‘as-smak’ as Arcturus, which, however, is not present in the winter sky; on naw, vide p. 586, n. 21, above.

54 Vide The Mufaḍḍaliyāt, no. XCVIII, 1. 16.

55 cf. Jurdak, Astronomical dictionary, ‘Capella’.

56 Vide C. A. Nallino, ‘Astronomy’, Encyclopaedia of Islam, first ed.

57 Vide al-Bīrūnī, , Chronology, 336–8Google Scholar, and Pellat, (‘Dictons rimes’, 20–9)Google Scholar. As to contemporary usage, the Ababda Bedouin of Egypt are reported to have adhered to a similar system down to the recent past (Murray, , Sons of Ishmael, 163–4)Google Scholar. It is also said to be used by fishermen in the Persian Gulf (Serjeant, ‘Fisher-folk’) and by agriculturists in south-western Arabia (Serjeant, Star-calendars'; von Landberg, Carlo, Glossaire daṯinois, II, Leiden, 1923, 10921110Google Scholar(fql)).

58 A. M. Clerke, ‘Zodiac’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, eleventh ed.; such is Pellat's, conclusion as well (‘Dictons rimés’, 41)Google Scholar.

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 16 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Bedouin star-lore in Sinai and the Negev
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Bedouin star-lore in Sinai and the Negev
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Bedouin star-lore in Sinai and the Negev
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *