After visiting the monument for the first president of Liberia, we walk past an abandoned lighthouse where gangs now seem to meet, to arrive at the circular driveway of the Ducor Palace Hotel. Even though the hotel was abandoned in 1989, was badly damaged both by the war and by looting, and is basically just a skeletal building, there is a security guard just like there would be one if the hotel would be operational. But after that, everything is different. Work brings me to stay in many luxury hotels, and I try to make out what the hotel would have looked like. The reception - there? The bellboys, a kiosk, the concierge, perhaps a couple of big plants? Then, the elevators - now, large openings in the bare concrete. The only way up now is by leg power. But first, we have a look at the pool area.
Like many posh hotels, the pool turns out to be quite small. Rumour has it that Idi Amin, the notorious leader of Uganda, once swam here with his gun. Miriam Makeba, the South African singer, performed here for the guests. For a while, in the 1960s, the Ducor Palace Hotel was one of the few five-star hotels of Africa, and this was a meeting place for the heads of state of newly-independent African nations. The inaugural ceremony was attended by many heads of state. And oh, this must have been a great place to wind down after a hot and sweaty day. The highest point of town: there is always a breeze through the surrounding palm trees, there are great views of West Point and sunset across the Atlantic. We now work our way up the dilapidated building to the eight floor, through the rubble left behind by years of war, looting, neglect. You have to be a little careful walking the crumbling stairs, and each floor has more empty rooms.
Those rooms are surprisingly small, actually, given the fact that everything has already been stripped. For a while, squatters used to live here, but they were evicted when there were plans to reconstruct the hotel under the Gaddafi government, but with his demise, those plans have vanished as well. An artist has been working for months to embellish a corridor and rooms on one floor, and the effects are stunning - it almost feels like a small gallery of art in a desolate, grey ruined place. The top floor has, of course, the best views around: you can see the entire city, the Saint Paul river, the bridges, Providence Island, where the first settlers from the United States landed in 1822. The rooftop bar must have been a great place to feel on top of the world. We descend to reality: the scattered remains of the lobby where, just outside in the grass, we find a rusting gun. This location on top of Broad Street, was inevitably also a strategic place during the civil war that brought the country to its knees in the 1990s. After a small tip to the guard of the hotel, we walk down from the past to the present - bustling Monrovia.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ducor Palace Hotel (Liberia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ducor Palace Hotel. Read more about this site.