still life with plastic bowls in Monrovia’s Waterside Market

Our second day in Monrovia. We check out the second-best tourist site, the equally derelict Edwin J. Roye building. This was the former headquarters of the True Whig Party, the political party that has dominated Liberian politics for over a hundred years, until the 1980 coup d’état. Perhaps the only skyscraper in town, built in the early 1960s, it became defunct after the coup, which did away with the party, and thus – that’s how things go, as we saw with the Ducor hotel – fell into disrepair, and quickly decayed further. You cannot go in (or so I thought), but from the outside it looks sad enough. Except that in front of the building are seven friezes, depicting scenes of Liberian life, all made in 1970 by a local artist, R.Yanoah Richards. They are quite nice, in the absence of other tourist attractions. The large stained glass windows over the entrance has seen better times, too. Before I can take pictures, I first need to convince the police, whose headquarters is opposite, that I am only interested in the Roye building, not in theirs. But then it is OK, and they helpfully warn not to stand on the street whilst taking pictures – not because of the traffic, but of potential bag- and camera-snatchers on motorbikes. Now that is how the police makes itself useful. NB: I later learn that one of our group did manage to find an entrance, and took some pictures from inside, which he shared with me.

the Edwin J. Roye building

with an interesting architecture

and these stone friezes, seven in total

quite attractive carvings

with local themes, like this mask

and this village and palm tree

one of our group managed to get inside (courtesy Adrian Sameli)

which gives a better view of the stained glass, of course (courtesy Adrian Sameli)

the rather poignant sculpture in front of the National Museum, recent history for sure

another sculpture outside the museum, referring to the – in Africa, and Liberia, widely ignored – Geneva convention

A little further on is the Liberia National Museum, and it is open! Downstairs it has a great mask collection, well appreciated by me, as you know, but unfortunately, no photographs again. Oh well, even without me asking the guide who accompanies us is actually kind enough to suggest that I can take a few pictures, as long as I only use my camera if there is nobody else. Obviously, a small contribution is in order, afterwards. And even when I get caught taking photos, by the boss of our guide, he just tells me off, and disappears again. Everybody knows how the system works, here. The rest of the museum is less interesting, deals mostly with the recent history of the country, about which you have already been able to read, a few days ago.

one of the unusual masks inside the museum, difficult to photograph with the light

and a third one, equally unusual

another mask, equally difficult

this mask is slightly better on the photo

and I found this historical photograph on the top floor of the museum

the house of one of the first presidents of Liberia

brace yourself for the market!

the narrow passages totally clogged with kekehs, hardly moving

another still life with plastic

hair extensions, in all colours, are very popular

critical clothing, sold from a wheel barrow

It is getting hotter again, mid-morning, but we do walk on, to the Waterside Market, the main market of Monrovia. In fact, it seems to start long before we arrive at the Waterside, near the Mesurado river that flows into the sea here. Based on our earlier experiences, we didn’t have a lot of expectation. But we were proven wrong. This was a real market again, friendly people, in for a chat, no photo paranoia – on the contrary, many people insisted on having their picture taken! Whenever I wandered off too far, Sofia was accommodated by stall holders, to come and wait in the shade, have a chair. All very nice, and a far cry from the horror stories about everybody being a criminal. True, some people try to make life difficult, demanding money, yelling and shouting, but each time we manage to engage in conversation, and each time they actually calm down, kind of admit that it is just a pose, to try to scare us out of our cash. I know, these encounters can also turn nasty, for no apparent reason, but somehow, we haven’t felt so comfortable with Africans since early days in Chad and Cameroon.

and the fresh food market, fish section

nobody really concerned about photographs

including properly armed crabs

which makes it a pleasure again to roam around the market

And then we have exhausted the options. We could get to one of the fancy, vastly overpriced beach hotels for drinks at the pool, but instead, we settle for the bottle shop opposite our guesthouse, where the lady already knows what I need: two tonics and a small bottle of Master Dry Gin, that reputable brand that is being sold for a little over 1 US$ per 25 cl. The local supermarket sells Pringles – either in US$ or in local currency, Liberian dollars, everybody here accepts both. Great late afternoon combination, for on the patio of our guesthouse.

Next: one more day Monrovia

from the bridge next to the market, the neighbourhood behind, bordering the Mesurado river

and the rubbish, incredible, at the edge of the river

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