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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Maten > Nahr el Kalb and Steles

The Monuments on Dog River, Nahr el-Kalb

All along the Lebanese coast-line one finds narrow passages which once upon a time practically blocked the movements of great armies, for at these places the rocky cliffs fall almost vertically down to the sea. One may take as examples Ras ash-Shakaya at Shekka and the spur jutting out into the sea at Nahr el-Kalb. Legends abound concerning the name of the latter which has replaced the Greek name Lycus, the wolf or dog. Travelers would say that a huge dog, a monster, stood over the pass and would let nobody pass who could not answer its questions, a story like that of the sphinx who likewise devoured those who could not answer him correctly. Other said that a massive dog guarded the narrow passage and would bark very loud to warn of approaching invaders, and so on and so on, all of which stories stand on no scientific grounds.

The water flowing in the river comes from springs high up in the mountains of Kesrouan but principally from the source deep in the spectacular cave of Jeita.

The valley of Nahr el-Kalb, river of the dog, the wolf, Lycus, is closely confined at its mouth in a narrow cleft whose sides rise sharply some three hundred feet and more above the bed. Thousands of years ago this gorge originally separated the lands of the two kingdoms of Beirut to the south and Byblos (Jbeil) to the north. Passage through the easily defended narrow pass on the shoreline gave rise to exploits that several warrior chiefs of those distant days recorded on the rock face above in the form of inscriptions on steles. There are seventeen of these inscriptions chiseled into the rock, numbered officially by the General Directorate of Antiquities as follows.

Stele N° 1: This is the only one on the right bank of the river, almost hidden by the thick vegetation overhanging the present bridge. The inscription in the ancient Babylonian language in cuneiform writing recounts the deeds of King Nabuchodonosor II (605-562 B.C.) This stele is illegible today because of penetration by greenery and water from an aqueduct, but fortunately there are old photographs of the text.

Stele N° 2: Number 2 is on the left bank two hundred yards up from the river mouth by the old Arab bridge. Placed just above water level, the Arabic inscription says that the bridge was built by the Mameluke sultan Seif ed-Dine Malek Zahir Barquq (1382-1389 A.D.).

Stele N° 3: This stands above the present bridge and speaks of the works undertaken here by the 3rd Gallic Legion during the reign of Marcus Aurelius Caracalla (211-217 A.D.).

Stele N° 4: Number 4 commemorates the entry of French troops into Damascus on 25th July, 1920 under General Gouraud.

Stele N° 5: Number 5 bears the image of an Egyptian pharaoh facing his god Trah under a shelf indicating the gulley of the Dog River.

Steles N°s 6, 7 and 8: These are at road level; each one shows an Assyrian king wearing a tiara and raising his right hand. Unfortunately they are very much disfigured.

Stele N° 9: Placed above the three preceding ones, it bears an English inscription commemorating the seizure of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo from the Turks during the month of October, 1918.

Stele N° 10: Also in English, this commemorates the liberation of Syrian and of Lebanon in 1941. Adjoining tablets note the laying of the Naqoura-Beirut-Tripoli railway in 1943 and the evacuation of French troops in 1946.

Steles N° 11 and N° 12: These are two inscriptions in Greek.

Stele N° 13: Number 13 was left by the Assyrians and shows an Assyrian king praying to his god.

Stele N° 14: Number 14 shows Pharaoh Rameses II (1292-1225 B.C.) sacrificing a captive to the god Harmakis.

Stele N° 15: This shows an Assyrian king praying to his god.

Stele N° 16: Number 16 shows Pharaoh Rameses II sacrificing a prisoner to the god Amon of Thebes.

Stele N° 17: This cuneiform inscription commemorates the expedition in 671 B.C. of the Assyrian King Assaradon into Egypt. This and the previous stele are placed high up on the cliff and are very well conserved.

During the 1950s there was still an abundant flow of water in the river even during the summer. I very well remember our youthful outings in this verdant valley with its gardens, orchards of fruit trees and woods growing wild, not to mention its many picturesque restaurants. In this wonderful heritage Roman aqueducts took water to irrigate the small coastal plain between the river and Jounieh. The place attracts numbers of tourists who are lovers of nature as well as specialists of history and archeology.

Joseph Matar Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Nahr el Kalb - The river: >> View Movie << (2014-04-01)
- Nahr el Kalb - The steles: >> View Movie << (2014-04-01)



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