Written in the stars: Constellations with Arab names

Several constellations have Arab antecedents. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 September 2019

Written in the stars: Constellations with Arab names

  • Many have believed, and some still do, that the constellations hold the key to understanding the world

Man has always looked to the stars, tying their appearance and location to events on earth, from births, deaths and natural disasters to changes in weather, harvests and even the migratory patterns of wildlife.

Many have believed, and some still do, that the constellations hold the key to understanding the world.

Al-Ghorab, the Corvus constellation, is a small star group in the southern sky, modeled on the Babylonian raven. Babylonians associated the constellation with Adad, the god of rain and storm, because its stars would rise before the onset of the spring rains.

One myth associated with Corvus is that when Apollo received news of his wife Coronis’s unfaithfulness from a pure white crow, he turned its feathers black in rage.

Ad-Dulfin, the Delphinus constellation, is located in the northern sky. The constellation represents the dolphin sent by the sea god Poseidon to find Amphitrite, the sea goddess he wanted to marry. One of the major stars in the constellation is Epsilon Delphini. Its traditional name, Deneb Dulfim, comes from the Arabic “zanab ad-dulfin,” or dolphin’s tail.

Ad-Dubb Al-Akbar, or Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, includes a group of stars commonly known as the Big Dipper, and is one of the most recognizable patterns in the northern sky. One of its stars, Dubhe, gets its name from the Arabic “dubb,” which means bear.

Al-Hamal, or the Aries constellation, in the northern hemisphere is usually associated with the story of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology. Hamal is the brightest star in the constellation, and its name is derived from the Arabic “Ras Al-Hamal,” or Head of the Ram. Another star, Delta Arietis, or Botein, gets its name from the Arabic “baten” or “butain,” which means “belly.”

Al-Asad, the Lion, or the Leo constellation, is one of the largest constellations in the night sky. It is usually associated with the Nemean lion in Greek mythology. Regulus Alpha Leonis is the brightest star. Its Arabic name, Qalb Al-Asad, means “the heart of the lion.” Denebola is the second-brightest star in Leo. Its name is derived from the Arabic “Danab Al-Asad,” which means “the lion’s tail.”

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Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

This file photo taken on March 6, 2003 shows bulbs at the flower market in Amsterdam. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

  • Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring

THE HAGUE: Tourists are being ripped off at Amsterdam’s famous flower market, with just one percent of all bulbs sold at the floating bazaar ever producing a blossom, investigators said Tuesday.
A probe commissioned by the Dutch capital’s municipality and tulip growers also found that often only one flower resembled the pictures on the packaging like color, and that there were fewer bulbs than advertised.
“The probe showed that there is chronic deception of consumers,” at the sale of tulip bulbs at the flower market, the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) said.
“Millions of tourists and day-trippers are being duped,” KAVB chairman Rene le Clercq said in a statement.
Amsterdam and the KAVB have now referred the matter to the Dutch consumer watchdog.
The Amsterdam flower market is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and dates from around 1862, when flower sellers sailed their barges up the Amstel River and moored them in the “Singel” to sell their goods.
Its fame inspired the popular song “Tulips from Amsterdam,” best known for a 1958 version by British entertainer Max Bygraves.
Today the market comprises of a number of fixed barges with little greenhouses on top. Vendors not only sell tulip bulbs but also narcissus, snowdrops, carnations, violets, peonies and orchids.
But of 1,363 bulbs bought from the Singel and then planted, just 14 actually bloomed, the investigation said.
Investigators found a similar problem along the so-called “flower bulb boulevard” in Lisse, a bulb-field town south of Amsterdam where the famous Keukenhof gardens are also situated.
Since first imported from the Ottoman Empire 400 years ago, tulips “have become our national symbol and the bulb industry a main player in the Dutch economy,” said Le Clercq.
But the “deception about the tulip bulbs is a problem that has been existing for the past 20 years,” he added.

The victims are often tourists, KAVB director Andre Hoogendijk said.
“A tourist who buys a bad bulb is not likely to come back,” he told Amsterdam’s local AT5 news channel.
Vendors at the market told AT5 that complaints were known.
“There are indeed stalls here that sell rubbish. That is to everyone’s disadvantage, because it portrays the whole flower market in a bad light,” one unidentified vendor said.
But a spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam said that all vendors were being investigated “and that the results are shocking.”
“So to say that it is only a few stalls is not true,” the spokesperson told AFP in an email.
The probe took place earlier in the year during springtime, the spokesperson said.
“The issue is that you shouldn’t even sell tulip bulbs during the spring. No decent florist shop in Holland does that.”
Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring.