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Dilapidated Ducor Hotel

Photographer: Nic Bothma


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. I was photographing out a seventh-floor window with a Liberian colleague Peewee Flomuku standing two feet away when a bullet passed between our heads and struck the wall behind.


14 years later I return to the same place I nearly lost my life to find the Ducor Hotel still standing with the thick tropical vegetation surrounding it invading every crevice, corner, and floor of the deserted art deco styled landmark.


The Ducor hotel was used by Charles Taylor’s fighters as a firing position due to its vantage point on the highest hill in Monrovia during the siege of Monrovia by rebel forces in 2003. This was the crescendo of 14 years of a civil war being played out. Following the war Liberian president, Charles Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.


The Ducor Hotel was once the most prominent hotel in Africa. Built-in 1960 in on the highest point of Monrovia the first ever 5-star hotel in Africa has 106 rooms and is nine floors high. The building overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the Saint Paul River and Monrovia's West Point district.


Operated at the time by Intercontinental Hotels it was the first international class hotel constructed in Liberia. Frequented by politicians, diplomats and business people from across the continent and abroad the hotel was a shining example of the prosperous years in West Africa at the time. It hosted many important meetings between African leaders. Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is said to have swum in its pool while carrying his gun. President Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast was so impressed with the hotel during his stay that he commissioned its Israeli builder Moshe Mayer to erect a 12 story luxury hotel in Abidjan the Hotel Ivoire. The Ducor hotel's various amenities included a French restaurant, swimming pool and lounge deck with spectacular views, tennis courts, rooftop and a 360-degree view bar.


The hotel closed in 1989, just before the coup of Charles Taylor which led to the first Liberian civil war. The hotel was damaged and looted during the war and eventually, its rooms were occupied by displaced residents of many of Monrovia's slums. In the siege of Monrovia in 2003, it was used as a firing position by Taylor’s ragtag army. Following the war in 2007 the government evicted squatters and a year later it leased the hotel to the government of Libya with plans to renovate and reopen. The Italian design firm Serapioni prepared models of the renovated hotel but the project was abandoned when Liberia severed diplomatic ties with the Gaddafi government following the outbreak of the 2011 Libyan civil war.


The Ducor Hotel remains abandoned until today and remains a symbol of the best and worst highlights on the African continent.


Liberians head to the polls on 10 October in the very first African nation to obtain independence in 1847.


These elections are hoped to be the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power from Africa's first female democratically elected president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to a new leader who has to continue the countries rebuild following nearly two decades of brutal civil war.