Monrovia’s appeal for shopaholics is as unique as Liberia itself – an exciting mix of old-fashioned stores, elegant upscale boutiques, modern, air-conditioned venues and side streets crammed with fabric shops and tailors offering the glowing colors of embroidered and tie-dye tribal patterns ready to be made into European or African fashion wear. Handicrafts in Liberia are some of the most vibrant in Africa and include the exotic carved and painted ritual masks, artifacts in ebony, mahogany, camwood, sapwood, soapstone and natural hardstones. Fertility symbols, spectacular metal jewelry, basketry, pottery and traditional musical instruments including drums all make great reminders of your visit.
Chaotic and colorful, Monrovia’s Waterside Market is the first and essential stop on the shopping trail around Liberia, where you’re sure to pick up gifts for friends and family after a fun haggling session. When you’re negotiating, remember that poverty is an epidemic so don’t be too tough. After you’ve trawled your way through the Waterside Market, head to Monrovia Market, the city’s second main shopping hub, where you’ll find a variety of necessities including clothes, leather and pottery.
Several craft enclaves can be found in downtown Liberia, with the oldest set on Mamba Point near the US Embassy. Another is found five blocks away by the Cape Hotel, with two more on nearby streets and all are within walking distance of the main drag. For upscale souvenirs, the shops in the hotel malls are a good bet, although prices will definitely be higher. If you’re visiting Paynesville, stop by the Jola House on Duport Road for handmade robes, throws, purses and textiles made by workers as part of a social enterprise project. For a thought-provoking take-away, metalworker Benjiamin Somon on Old Road in Monrovia’s Sinkor district converts bullets and AK 47 parts into chess sets, nativity scenes and much more.