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It Either Carries the Camel, or Else it Doesn’t Wet the Load the Camel Carries”

A Window into Contemporary Omani Literature

The following is my English translation of an excerpt from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid Al Kalbani

Almadiyyina Counting

Almadiyyina is village of the Ghafri tribe. Its people were in the past renowned for mathematically determining the seasons. As far as I know, they would do that in the following manner:

Aláqoor, the raining winter season, would last for 100 days, divided in tenths:

The 1st -30th days: Starting early in winter, this period was known as bwakeer aláqrabi. The wind blew northerly, and the rainfall would focus, by and large, on the coastal areas and their bordering mountains. Aláqrabi would continue for another twenty days, and the wind would blow westerly.

The 4th ten days: Known locally as dafwat al nabbat, this period was distinguished by high temperature and the ripening of the date palm trees.

The 5th ten days: This period was known locally as the “old ten”. It was named after, according to our narrative tradition, a woman who cut off her goat’s hair in the first 40 days, thinking that winter had all but finished and summer started. When cold came in the following ten days her cattle died of cold, thus the period was named after her, rather than after her cattle, which perished because of her miscalculations.

The 6th ten days: This period was known as albilli, after the blossoming of citrus trees. The same name was given to the 7th ten days, also known as al jamaleel , as the men on camels would start to take rest in the afternoon. In the 8th ten days, known as Shilli, all the yields of buckthorn would be harvested. The same name was given to the 9th ten days, which were also called A’awo, as the wind hammered bundles of dried cattle fodder, making noises much like the howling of wolves. (Nowadays A’awo is heard in palm trees and mountains. We hear it coming from doors and windows, as the wind penetrates through their tightly closed pores). The last 10th days, called lamya, the Auqoor ended with a heavy downpour.

People would then start measuring the summer season. Though they thought it to be 100 days long, they would only calculate 40 days. The first ten days, called ghyoob al thariyya, witnessed heavy downpours, the arrival of magpies and the blossoming of the flowers of the samr trees, known locally as albarm. In the second ten days, the birds continued to flock in, and the possibility of downpour persisted. In the last third ten days, we would see the arrival of a bird type known locally as warrad, and the rains continued though only sporadically on the coastal and the neighbouring mountainous areas.

A distinguishing feature of the rain during these ten days was that it either poured rather heavily or didn’t pour at all. No wonder our elders used to say, “It either carries the camel, or else it doesn’t wet the load the camel carries”. After that came the last forty days, in which the early signs of summer dates as well as of honey appeared. With the end of the days, the Madiyyina counting stopped only to start all over again with the subsequent winter.

(In many parts of Oman, there are those who are well versed in astrology. People on the coasts are conversant with the wave movements and fish migration. Each area has its own survival mechanism).

* The Arabic word for camel is "jamal" (translator)

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