On my second weekend in Monrovia I went “sightseeing.” My husband laughed when I told him this. Well, it’s not exactly Paris. But there are still some pretty interesting things to see in the capital.
One of them is the Ducor Hotel – the abandoned shell of a grand hotel, sitting in a state of spectacular ruin, perched atop the highest point of a hill overlooking the ocean. It boasts an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, the St. Paul River (and the West Point slum) to the north, and the expanse of Monrovia to the west.
It is prime real estate – no wonder Intercontinental Hotels chose this spot to build a five-star hotel in 1962. In its heyday, the Ducor Palace Hotel boasted an outdoor pool, tennis courts, three hundred rooms, a restaurant, a nightclub, a rooftop bar, a grand winding staircase, and a lift to take you up to the top floor.
But as the political situation went downhill in Liberia, the Ducor Hotel shut down in 1989, the fateful year that Charles Taylor led a military coup against President Samuel K. Doe and Liberia’s first civil war began. In the two decades since then – 14 years of which Liberia suffered civil war – the hotel has been vacant. The hotel was damaged, looted, and occupied by squatters.
The squatters have since been cleared out and there have been many plans over the years to refurbish the hotel, most notably an agreement signed between the Liberian government and Qadafi, which has, needless to say, fallen through. But, at the entrance to the hotel, there is still – hopefully? comically? – a large “Future of Ducor” billboard with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s smiling face next a number of improbable looking photos.
But whatever becomes of the Ducor in the future, it remains hauntingly beautiful in its current state of post-apocalyptic ruin.
To get to the hotel, you walk east up Broad Street, Monrovia’s main thoroughfare, toward the Atlantic Ocean. You then walk up Snapper Hill along a quiet, shady, tree-lined road, a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the city below. The hotel grounds seem to be surrounded by makeshift walls, but you can slip through one of the doors, tip the groundskeeper or guard, and have a look around. Just be careful to avoid the empty elevator shafts, crumbling concrete, and ungarded ledges…