Dog River in Lebanon is 31 kilometers long, springing from the majestic Jeita Grotto and flowing all the way to the mighty Mediterranean Sea. It is better known to locals as the Nahr al-Kalb. This body of flowing water has seen the passing of time. It has supported life since the Paleolithic era, allowing the earliest settlers to flourish in agriculture and enjoy abundant yields.
Great men of history and foreign invaders have marched along the banks and shores. Some of them have carved inscriptions on the walls and rocks above the river that now serve as proof of their presence and expeditions.
There are about 17 historic inscriptions and the oldest one dates back to the 14th century BC. It was carved by no less than Ramses II, the Egyptian Pharaoh. The inscription talks about a treaty that identified the river as the boundary between Egypt and the land of the Hittites.
The other notable rock markings were left by the likes of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, King Esarhaddon of Assyria (and other Assyrian kings), Emperor Caracalla of Rome, Governor Proclus of Phoenicia, and Napoleon III. These great men also built monuments at the mouth of the Dog River to memorialize their conquests. Some other monuments were erected by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and modern-day French and British invaders. The ancient Romans referred to the river as Lycus River. One of the newest monuments was the one constructed in 1946 to commemorate Lebanese Independence, which was won in 1943.
Over Nahr el Kalb is an old bridge that was built during the Mamluk era. It has been reconstructed several times and on it are two more inscriptions, one of which was by Emir Bechir Chehab II. He probably carved his insignia after he repaired the bridge in 1809. The bridge is a historic landmark. It was, in fact, depicted on the Lebanese 5 pound note from 1964-1986.
With so much history and significant international events represented by this river, one has got to wonder why it was named Dog River. Based on a local legend, a large black dog used to live along the river and was very protective of his territory. The legend says he would kill anyone who tried to pass through but unfortunately he was overpowered and killed by a traveling man. The man threw the large dog’s dead body into the river, which turned red from the dog’s blood. The legend ends by saying that the river turns red every spring.
In 2005, UNESCO erected its own monument along the river, declaring it as part of the organization’s Memory of the World program. The aim of this program is to preserve important world historical sites such as the Nahr el Kalb.
Dog River is about 14 kilometers to the north of Beirut and a couple of kilometers to the port city of Jounieh. The monuments and inscriptions above the river are open for public viewing and considered an important tourist attraction in Jounieh. Those who have seen it can’t help being transported into the past and consider the importance of this river in shaping the history of Europe and the Middle East.