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
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
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
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
Steles N° 11 and N° 12: These are two inscriptions
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
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
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
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)