Now that the new website is up and running, I have been able to get back to posting on a more frequent basis. And in so doing, I want to finally get back to the Israel Mystery Photo posts I started a while back!
To refresh your memory, these are a series of pictures I’ve taken around Israel during my travels as a tour guide. You try to guess where the image was taken. So far this is just a “contest” for fun, but perhaps I’ll offer prizes in the future. This was the last Israel Mystery Photo I posted a while back.
As most responders last time around correctly answered, the picture was from the inside of the long-abandoned Lido Restaurant located at the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea. Shmuel was the first to identify it, and also gets extra points for his correct additional comment: a great reason for you to hire a tour guide in Israel! Dave, Benny and Aaron were also correct. Ilana knew it without the name, and Mindy was at least partially accurate as well. And Sabina clearly has never been there, underscoring what I wrote back then — if you’ve been there, you’ll know it!
So, what is the Lido? Or more accurately, what was it? In the 1920s, Jewish businessmen living in Palestine opened the Lido Restaurant and Hotel as a resort venture. The Dead Sea has always been a place that people go to escape the city life, and the Lido was easily reachable from Jerusalem, Amman and of course the nearby Jericho. And since the road that currently runs the length of the Dead Sea was not built until many decades later, this area was much more easily accessed than Ein Gedi or the area of Ein Bokek, where today’s hotels stand.
The hotel and night club catered to a mixed clientele of Jews, Arabs and foreign nationals, gaining extra popularity when sea plane flights on the England-India route began stopping at the Dead Sea. Catering to this diverse crowd, the Lido served up an early “fusion” cuisine. Other similar resort hotels were built in the same vicinity. This article from a 1935 Australian newspaper offers a colorful description of one such restaurant (please note that, written in 1935 in Australia, the article features some language that is offensive to contemporary readers).
The visitors are international – but not international society people. There are French soldiers from Syria, English soldiers and officials, and Jews from all parts of the world. Everyone is enjoying the seashore, simply, and with no fashionable seaside clothes.
The Beach Restaurant has a dancing floor, rimmed with small tables, on which stand lamps with pretty coloured shades. Tea and coffee, in charming blue-green china, are handed round by a black waiter dressed in white with a red scarf and fez. Five o’clock, the dansant by the Dead Sea!
The Lido operated until 1948 and the Israeli War for Independence. Following the war, cut off from half of its clientele, it shuttered its doors. The Jordanian army used the area for army barracks. During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel attacked the army camp and an errant tank shell created the prominent hole in the photo. The Lido then became an Israeli army camp, typically housing reservists who nicknamed it the “Lido Hilton.”
In 1973, one such reservist, Gershon Kochavi, painted the mural on the walls that you can also see in the photo, a replica of a Crusader-era map of the Holy Land. I’ve been told that following a lot of graffiti, the mural was restored in the last few years by a group of bikers, cooperating with the Israel Parks Authority. (Unfortunately, the graffiti has returned once more.)
Probably the most striking aspect of a visit to the Lido is how far the Dead Sea is from the restaurant itself. When the nightclub operated, the Dead Sea kissed the foot of the patio, with steps that are still visible descending to the water’s edge. Due largely to human intervention, primarily though not exclusively by Dead Sea Works‘ mineral mining, the Dead Sea level has been dropping at an average rate of 1 meter per year. Since 1967, the water surface has dropped over 30 meters, creating a host of environmental nightmares.
Contact me if you’d like me to take you to visit the Lido on a trip to the Dead Sea. Now get cracking on the current mystery photo! Leave your guesses in the comments below, which will remain hidden until I post the next Mystery Photo.