Abandoned Casino - Atlas Obscura

Abandoned Casino

Hammam Lif, Tunisia

This gem of Moorish architecture is slowly disintegrating along the coast of this charming town. 

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Hammam Lif is a lively town a stone’s throw south of Tunis. A thick network of narrow, crisscrossing roads run between old and new buildings. Along the beach there is an iconic casino, a testament to a time when Hammam Lif was a thriving multicultural center that attracted important events.

The French administration commissioned the building of a casino in Hammam Lif toward the end of the 19th century to attract visitors. The structure’s Moorish design radiated elegance and opulence. The hotel-cum-casino officially opened in 1894. After many years, it was sold and turned into a restaurant, but still capitalized on the building’s fame as “the casino,” which explains the survival of the sign on the rooftop. In 2010, all commercial activities were discontinued on the premises, and in 2013 the building was abandoned.

One of the doors facing the beach is usually ajar, and there are no signs forbidding entry. In the main hall, the reception and the bar are immediately recognizable, and three arched doors usher onto the center of the building directly under the dome. A balcony on the upper floor delineates the perimeter of this internal court. The attention to detail is evident despite the damage caused by vandals and neglect. For instance, the dome is imposing, the arches are masterfully decorated, and most of the windows and doors have stained glass inserts.

In recent years, the building’s architectural value was recognized, and the casino was placed under protection as a historical monument. But no work aiming at the preservation and/or restoration of the building has been undertaken thus far.

Since its independence, the laws regarding betting have changed in Tunisia. By and large, gambling is now prohibited, even though there is some leeway regarding sports betting. Although a quick search of the word “casino” in Tunisia may yield several hits, most refer to betting shops and closed-down casinos. As of 2024, the only casino operating in Tunisia is located in Djerba, and caters mainly to tourists.

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February 16, 2024

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