MONROVIA – A former 5-star hotel that was once a symbol of prosperity and the first international-class hotel to be built in the Liberian capital Monrovia lies in a state of rack and ruin after the country’s civil war.
The nine-story 106-room Ducor Hotel was built in 1960 by Israeli architect Moshe Mayer, and it welcomed guests from all over the world, including high-level diplomats, politicians and business people.
Ducor’s amenities included a French restaurant, a swimming pool and lounge deck, tennis courts, a rooftop and 360-degree view bar.
Former president of the Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, was said to have been so impressed that he commissioned Mayer to erect a 12-story luxury hotel in Abidjan – the Hotel Ivoire.
Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is said to have swum in its pool while carrying his gun.
The hotel closed in 1989 before the First Liberian Civil War that ended in 1997, two years before the onset of the Second Civil War that lasted until 2003.
In over a decade of violence, the hotel was damaged, looted and eventually occupied by displaced people from Monrovia’s slums.
During the siege of Monrovia in 2003, it was used as a firing position by then President Charles Taylor’s ragtag army due to its vantage point on the city’s highest hill.
Following the war, Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In 2007, the government evicted the squatters and a year later leased the hotel to the government of Libya with plans to renovate and reopen, but that project was abandoned when Liberia severed diplomatic ties with the government of Muammar Gaddafi following the outbreak of the 2011 Libyan war.
“As a photographer covering the Liberian civil war in 2003, I narrowly missed being shot by a rebel sniper when photographing a city overview from the dilapidated Ducor Hotel on the highest point in Monrovia,” an epa photographer said.
He had been taking photographs from a window on the seventh floor with Liberian colleague Peewee Flomuku standing two feet away when a bullet passed between their heads, striking the wall behind. Returning to the scene 14 years later, he found the hotel still standing, with thick tropical vegetation surrounding it, invading every crevice, corner, and floor of the deserted art deco styled landmark.
It is hoped that the upcoming elections on Oct. 10 will see the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power from Africa’s first female democratically elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to a new leader, who will have to continue to rebuild the country following nearly two decades of brutal civil war.
The Ducor is still abandoned and remains a symbol of the best and worst highlights of the African continent.