Entering Sunday
Visit to the Archives
Entering Sunday
Riots in Beirut
Visiting Byblos

February 5th, 2006 - Post No. 10

Greetings again from Antelias, Lebanon.

Today my daily walk took me about 8 kilometres up the coastal route to Nahr Al-Kalb (literally, River the Dog), the Lycus River of antiquity. Pictured here, the old Arab bridge across the river.

According to Arab tradition there was once a stone carving of a dog set to guard the river gorge, said to magically begin barking at the approach of an enemy army. Before the bridge was built, crossing the steep-sided gorge was more than a little hazardous for armies marching along the coast. They were forced to cross in single file, leaving them vulnerable to attack. One 12th century commentator claimed that only a few men could prevent the whole world from crossing here.

Following successful crossings of the river, leaders of great armies, from the dawn of civilisation to as recently as the Lebanese civil war, have been inspired to leave inscriptions expressing their gratitude. Along the south side of the gorge, many of these can still be found. In the photo (above), an inscription left by Napoléon III in 1861 (lower left) and two ancient Assyrian stelae to the right — one so damaged by polution (a major autoroute runs only a few feet away) that little more than pock marks remain. One of the two (lower centre above and in the photo left) portrays an Assyrian king, wearing a crown and with his right hand raised.

Pharoah Ramses II left two of these “stelae” between 1292-1225 B.C. Unfortunately the gateway to the Egyptian stelae and a few others is locked for the winter.

It was a beautiful day for this long walk. Partly cloudy, despite rain in the forecast, and the temperature near 20C (70F). There is a very pleasant seaside promenade that runs the full distance from Antelias all the way to Nahr Al-Kalb. Many locals were out to enjoy the day and, in some cases, to do a bit of fishing in the sea. At one point, the promenade borders a Lebanese army barracks. Ever vigilant, there have been a couple of incidents lately, guardsmen kept watch while their comrades enjoy a game of soccer.

Pictured here, Beirut as seen today (with a zoom lens) from Nahr Al-Kalb.

Back at the Catholicosate, it is time to prepare for Sunday. In keeping with ancient tradition, the Lord’s Day begins at sunset and vespers is particularly lovely tonight. It features the singing of what is apparently called the “Entering Sunday” hymn. It seems a rather mournful lament, but perhaps more the cry of one finally arriving home after a long separation. Click here to listen to part of this beautiful hymn, recorded this evening. That’s my counter part here (responsible for the Cathedral) Fr Norayr doing the singing. He is, among other things, a gifted musician.