View of the Kesrouan, from the archaeological site of Nahr Kalb. Photo credit: François el Bacha for

Not very far from us, we tend to forget, the famous historic valley of Nahr el Kalb, site now classified by Unesco as “Memory of the World” since 2005 after having known the various vicissitudes, the last of which is the threat. posed by the widening of the highway connecting Jounieh to Beirut and the construction of a new highway.

It is about a strategic promontory separating the Lebanese regions of Kesrouan and Metn, dug by a river taking its source in the caves of Jeita, and by where the different armies were to pass from Antiquity until our modern time. and the latter did not hesitate to leave the mark of their passages via the famous commemorative stelae, many of which have become illegible due to the action of time and bad weather. In particular, there are Egyptian inscriptions from the Pharaonic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, Greek, Roman, Arab, French, British and recently Lebanese times.

It is therefore a true open-air museum, where a few men were enough to defend the access against a larger army.

Also inside the valley is a stele of the Roman Emperor Caracalla who will grant Roman nationality to all inhabitants of the Roman Empire.

This stele commemorates the construction of a road in these places, called the Roman road by the 3rd Legion in the 3rd century AD.

Also read:

An Emir of Archeology, Maurice Chéhab

The origin of the name of this valley, Nahr el Kalb, translated into River of the Dog or from ancient times, River of Lycus, refers to a dog who howled at the announcement of new invaders. From this story, there remains a pedestal which carried the statue of this dog, destroyed, according to the Chevalier d’Arvieux by the Turks. In 1924, according to some sources, Maurice Chéhab found the remains of this statue at sea. She has since disappeared.

Other, older legends would refer to the famous sphinx from the myth of Oedipus who did not hesitate to kill the unfortunate travelers who did not answer his riddles correctly.

In addition to these 22 stelae, some of which are invisible like those of the Babylonian period, there is the Arab bridge and the monument to the Dead.

Built by Sultan Mamluk Saif el Din Barqouq, founder of the Circassian dynasty, it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Its last restoration dates from Emir Shehab II in 1809. Unfortunately today it is “privatized” and serves as an entrance to an Arab restaurant. According to other information, the Mamluk bridge had succeeded a Roman bridge which connected the 2 sides of the road, along the steep cliffs of Nahr Kalb and of which we can perhaps guess the foundations today.

Other stelae are from a more contemporary period and recall the black pages of the Lebanese era, with in particular the massacres of Christians by the Druze in 1860, leading to French intervention. This is the so-called Napoleon III stele, which unfortunately erased an older stele built by Ramses II (1279 – 1213 BC) representing a pharaoh immolating a captive in front of the god Ptah. The French intervention resulted in the founding of the Moutassarif of 1861, where a representative of the Ottoman Empire was to be a Christian, the first being Daoud Bacha, leading what would become modern Lebanon with the help of elected officials. local.

The outcome of the First World War will lead to the mandate period at the end of the application of the Sykes-Picot agreements, named after the respectively British and French Foreign Ministers. From the ruins of the defeated Ottoman Empire, the limits of the modern states of Syria and Lebanon, on the French side and of Palestine for the English, we know today, will be born. Lebanon and Syria will then be ruled by General Henry Joseph Eugène Gouraud from 1919 to 1923 and which will bear the official title of Grand Commissioner of the French Government in the Levant.

Note the monument to the Dead of the Army of the Levant, originally located at the Avenue des Français in Beirut, it will be quickly moved by the Lebanese State to these places.


The Chronology of Lebanon’s Independence

The story will continue with the stele of the British, Australian and Indian Expeditionary Force, accompanied by the Free French Forces, commemorating the liberation of the Levant during the June campaign, July 1941 celebrating their victory over the French Forces from Vichy until today, with the installation of the last stele commemorating the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 alongside that of the proclamation of the independence of Lebanon in 1943.

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