If you checked in to Ducor Hotel in the 1970s, you’ll be checking into Monrovia’s finest hotel. Everywhere you turned, there’ll be murals, marble floors, sculptures, and palatial splendour. You’d most likely have been a diplomat, a politician, or simply mega-rich. If you were (un)lucky, you might have run into a certain Idi Amin, swimming in the pool, gun in hand.
Today, there are no trimmed flowers, no waiting valets, no receptionists, just a concrete shadow of everything it was and ever stood for.
We showed up here on a Saturday evening with its gates locked, and a bored security man seated at the entrance. 10 minutes later, we were in. But that was just as much time as we – Kayode, our Liberian friend, and I – had to make a quick sweep of the hotel.
At eight stories high, Ducor had over 100 rooms, of all price ranges, all luxurious.
If you checked into Ducor by the end of the 1980s, you would have have been one of its last commercial guests, as the doors closed in June 1990, just as Liberia was going to war. A few months later, the sitting government in Monrovia was overthrown, and the leader of that government, Samuel Doe, was executed.
Every room had a view of the Atlantic Ocean. From the rooftop restaurant, Monrovia biggest ghetto, West Point, looks like a speck of dust.
If you checked in to Ducor in 2003, you’ll have run into over 1000 refugees, sleeping on every floor except the seventh. The ground floor will be an open toilet. On the next floor, there’ll be women cooking with scraps of food that everyone can find. On the seventh floor, there’ll be soldiers loyal to Charles Taylor trying to repel rebels trying to cross the bridge into Monrovia down below.
If you checked in here in 2007, the last of all the homeless who had made this place their refuge will be getting kicked out. Gaddafi had indicated interest in this place, and a Libya-funded renovation was possibly in the works. All hopes of that quickly died in 2011, because America was pissed at Gaddafi, and Liberia severed ties with Gaddafi. All hope of reviving this place has been lost.
There’s no “until now” here.
But if you checked in on a Saturday evening as we did, you might run into Perry, 21, who first came here in 2015 with his friends, to smoke and rap. Or Joel, 17, who doesn’t smoke, but just likes to chill here and enjoy the panoramic view of Liberia.
“I just come here with my friends, and we chill, and we just talk about what Liberia will be like when we grow up.”
That’s what Joel said before the security man came to get us out, because he was scared his boss might drop by and find us inside.