Will it rain in the UAE this December? Look to the stars for answers

An ancient Gulf way of telling the seasons was once an integral part of life for pearl divers, sailors and farmers

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Today a simple glance at a smartphone app can give you a detailed breakdown of the weather.

But hundreds of years ago there was a rather different way of forecasting the chance of a downpour.

The traditional Al Drour calendar of the Gulf was used by sailors, pearl divers, shepherds and farmers — who tracked the seasons by watching the stars.

The calendar divided the year into four seasons, with 100 days allocated to autumn, winter and summer, followed by 60 days of scorching heat. Five “stolen days” were added for inclement weather.

Each season is associated with particular weather and the seasons are identified by the appearance of certain stars. These four seasons are further measured by the calendar in 10-day cycles, known in Arabic as dir.

“The simplest way to tell a changing season was to look at the sky and see the stars,” said Hasan Al Hariri, chief executive of Dubai Astronomy Group.

“To see a star signified when a season would start and tell us about the changes in temperature, wind direction and when the rains will come.”

Many in the Gulf looked forward to the appearance of the Suhail star, which was associated with the end of the traditional pearl diving season and the gradual start of the cooler weather.

This year, Suhail was spotted on August 24 and it has got gradually cooler in the UAE since then.

Will we see major rains in the UAE this winter?

According to Al Drour, December is typically when downpours are expected in the Gulf and the month when temperatures tend to fall sharply.

“The real effect of winter begins in December,” said Mr Al Hariri. “That’s when it starts.”

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have experienced severe downpours over the past week, with showers also forecast for Qatar over the next few days that could coincide with the World Cup quarter-finals.

According to the UAE’s National Centre of Meteorology, parts of the UAE could also experience some rain by the middle of the week.

As for the Al Drour, some say climate change has dulled its reliability and Mr Al Hariri laments the system is now on the verge of extinction because it is not taught any more and younger generations prefer to use their phones.

“Those luxuries were not available in ancient times,” he said. “People had to make best of it.”

Updated: December 07, 2022, 5:36 AM
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