Along the ever-busy Independence Way, right at the center of the pumping heart of Kaduna, a large statue of a riding horseman on a gate is visible to the always-onrushing traffic. This is the entrance to the grand Durbar Hotel. An iconic and historic hotel in its prime, Durbar was the venue where Alhaji Shehu Shagri was picked as the presidential candidate of the NPN, an election he would go on to win.

The Good Days

Fourty years ago, Durbar Hotel gleamed with glass windows and ornate buildings, a regalia of Nigeria’s oil boom. Plush concierges strutted along its elegant corridors; hotel staff provided room service; waiters serviced a seamless restaurant, and cleaners pampered a magnificent pool. Durbar Hotel in its beautiful hey days provided a splendid view of Kaduna from the peak of its mansion.

The magnificent hotel was built in 1977 in a two month period at a cost of around $100,000 to cater for the Durbar performance to be held in Kaduna as an offshoot of the ambitious Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) of that year. It was named Durbar Hotel, after the horse race.

Durbar hotel accommodated high-profile horse riders and its stylish amenities and services grasped the fancy of dignitaries within the country and even overseas.

Durbar was the epitome of the best hospitality and regalia of Kaduna state. It has since however, become a silhouette of itself, offering lodging not for superstars but empty echoes and crawling creatures.

The Present

A visit to Durbar Hotel today, greets you with the picturesque of an abandoned enclave. A huge mansion of a building that rises majestically into the sky, romancing the wind and covered by whirling trees like a fresh bride. But this bride is not fresh, rather crumbling and degraded.

The grass is rising and competing with the length of the buildings. The roofs are corroded, and every surface of the walls seems like it has never tasted the liquid of paint. Durbar Hotel is now a ruin of a building staring agape without its glossy glass windows.

A charming, extravagant and once commonly illustrious establishment is from the inside now an enormous empty reception. A cloud of silence. There are intricate patterns of decays and mold on walls and ceilings. Within the edifice, voices and sounds of traffic echo through rusted chambers and forsaken master bedrooms. Durbar Hotel is an enthralling long-standing wreck with high ceilings.

A mixture of red earth and green grass covers the ground amidst rows of tilled maize plantations. Far ahead within the vicinity of the crumbled hotel, a man in a dark brown vest and three-quarter trousers finds a spot in what might have been the grand reception of the hotel and drops his trousers to the floor and adds shit to the woes of the hotel.

Durbar Hotel still stands tucked away under the arms of Kaduna metropolis, but now tarnished, slender, and a balding old hotel. There is a majestic swimming pool still radiating in its past glory and within its spirogyra and bacteria infested shallow water, the grand Durbar Hotel reflects its once glorious majesty, flanked by rising palm trees bowing to the wind.

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Sada Malumfashi is a writer living in Kaduna. His works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in local and international magazines.