When it opened in 1960, the Ducor hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, was one of the only five-star hotels in Africa, boasting a nightclub and air-conditioned rooms, according to travel guides.
It hosted VIPs such as former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. Guests would lounge by the swimming pool, sip cocktails and watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ducor closed in 1989 at the outbreak of back-to-back civil wars, which ran from 1989 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2003. It swiftly fell into disrepair.
“It makes everybody sad,” said Ambrose Yebea, a retired tourism ministry official who previously offered tours of the hotel.
Many of Africa’s leaders stayed at the Ducor during the 1960s and ’70s with several booking rooms during the 1979 conference of the Organisation of African Unity in Monrovia.
In 2011, then-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf handed the Ducor to the Libyan African Investment Co. (LAICO), a subsidiary of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, as part of a renovation plan.
According to a 2011 government statement, the renovated hotel would have 151 rooms, restaurants, a shopping center, a tennis court and a casino, and provide jobs.
However, the project, which with another plan to develop a rubber-processing plant was priced at $65 million, fell apart. Liberia cut ties with Libya in 2011 as the country descended into civil war. Renovation work stopped.
“It came to us as a big shock,” said Frank Williams, a laborer who said he’d been one of 150 people employed by LAICO. “Today we are jobless.”
The project has been at a standstill since, and its future is unclear.
Some still hope to see the Ducor reborn. Yebea, the retired tourism official, said it could lure tourists and generate jobs.
“Every Liberian sees it the same way,” he said. “They want it to be refurbished.”