When Teri Weefur learned that she would be returning to her native Liberia (after leaving in 1990 when war broke out), she jumped at the opportunity to blog about the country for IT. Here, she shares some of her favorite experiences from her time in Monrovia.
As a Digital Media employee at National Geographic, I have always been somewhat disappointed in the coverage of Liberia as a travel destination, and understandably so: the 14-year civil war ended in 2003, and Liberians only just elected Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2006. Today, Liberia is on the road to recovery, and the people of Liberia are determined to restore her to a nation thriving with export, agriculture, commerce, and tourism. Rich in natural resources like iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds and gold, coffee and cocoa, Liberia teems with more than 2,000 species of flora and fauna, including the pygmy hippo, unique to Liberia, and boasts numerous waterways and beautiful rain forest vistas. One of West Africa’s most pristine rain forests is the Sapo National Park, a natural wonder for ecotourists.
I’d been hearing stories about Liberia’s big comeback, and now I would be seeing firsthand the redevelopment of a country marred by death and destruction for so many years. Armed with my brand new Fuji Film s8100fd camera, and the directives of friends and family to “take lots of pictures!” I was prepared for my monumental return home.
Crunched for time, as my obligation was volunteering with the first conference in Liberia since 1979, the International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, I gave up trying to find a way out of the city to see the most amazing parts of Liberia. Some of the country’s most beautiful sites, like Cape Mount, Blue Lake, Buchanan, and Cape Palmas, where the tented beach resort Nana’s Lodge is located, were out of my reach on this trip. But what I can provide is an introduction to the country, if nothing more than to encourage you to explore for yourself.
Where to Stay and Eat
In the little free time I had to myself, I was determined to see the capital city of Monrovia, where I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. Renting a taxi for $40 for the day, my mother and our driver served as tour guides for the city, and demonstrated that Liberia was indeed moving into the 21st century.
The first stop was at La Pointe Restaurant in Mamba Point. Though it was closed on the weekends, the owner gladly let me in to check out the breathtaking views of the ocean from the dining room. Looking over the balcony, I took in the dizzying expanse of rich greens and blues, framed by the purple bougainvillea endemic to Liberia.
Also in Mamba Point are two other hotels worth mentioning: Krystal OceanView Hotel
(Mamba Point, Monrovia, Liberia; +231 6 510 424) and Mamba Point Hotel, both of which offer spectacular views of the Atlantic. Krystal’s decor blends African art with contemporary design, and when I arrived, brunch was being served adding intoxicating aromas. My mouth watered from the scent of the traditional Liberian breakfast — cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains and fried fish gravy are my favorites.
Stepping into Mamba Point Hotel, I felt almost like I’d entered a hotel in Miami Beach. The tables were more conservatively dressed, but the art still reflected the Liberian traditions. Sampling a buffet of Chinese food (served with the hot pepper sauce that Liberians eat with every meal) was a bit unusual but tasted great nonetheless.
Royal Hotel, which served as our satellite office because they offer Wi-Fi, housed the Living Room, a traditional Japanese sushi bar, with eclectic art, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a modern setting. And the RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villas, developed by Bob Johnson (founder of BET), opened just in time for the Colloquium’s 500+ international guests and is proving to be one of West Africa’s finest resorts.
Across town, on Airfield Road, Ro-zi’s Gourmet Food Services is tucked away on a back road, but is certainly worth a visit. The restaurant offers a menu of Liberia fusion cuisine; sit outdoors under the stars and enjoy the natural breezes.
On my one free day, I knew had to visit one of Liberia’s many beaches. Thinker’s Beach Village
(ELWA Area, Monrovia, Liberia; +231 6 588 382), gave me amazing shots of Liberia’s beautiful sunsets. There’s not much better than listening to the sounds of people splashing in the surf over a cold Club Beer (the local Liberian brew).
Club-Hopping in Monrovia
At night, we visited several of Monrovia’s hotspots: La Noche Bar, a hip lounge downtown where UN personnel frequently gather; Deja Vu, a smoky, but lively nightclub where we danced the night away; and Palm Spring Resort & Casino (Congo Town Back Road, Monrovia, Liberia, +231 5 654 111), where karaoke, live bands, and a full casino cater to the night owl.
With so many more places to visit and report on, I can hardly call this a comprehensive list. But it is my hope to return one day soon to explore Liberia’s full potential, and to share the true beauty of my country.
You can see more of Teri Weefur’s photos by visiting her Flickr page.