Juba has a dream. Admittedly, it’s a dream that, at the moment, makes the town look like one large concrete mixer.
This is the hoarding board around the Juba Dream Hotel (and shopping mall). While the digitally-made images are generally stolen from Egyptian malls, the idealism is palpable, and the building is moving upwards fast. What makes this project notable in Juba, though, is the fact that the new hotel is on the site of, arguably, one of the only historical buildings in South Sudan still standing at independence, the old hotel where the Juba Conference of 1947 was held. This has now been bulldozed in readiness for a mall that – according to the photos above – will offer Dior and Esprit outlets. However, on a positive note, I walked past the site a few days ago and saw that an old (1940s? 1960s?) squash court – it looked like – has been kept behind the new building.
The whole of Juba is growing upwards fast, and often in a slightly worrying way (it doesn’t look like many cheap building outfits are remembering their concrete slump tests?). I was only away from Juba for two months, and whole new buildings had sprung up. The main building period started in about 2009 – when I first visited in 2008, we were still staying in tents, and there were very few buildings over one storey. I can remember which ones – including Joseph Lagu’s house, still standing happily while huge new hotels grow up around it.
This isn’t reducing property rents, though. A self-contained and serviced apartment still comes in at about $3-4000 per month; a room in a shared house, with average security in an average area, is steady at around $1200 per month. I’ve just wangled a place a bit cheaper than that for when I return in October – but it’s still expensive, and has a strict curfew (extra transcription time for me, I guess). And the entire town still operates on generators and satellite wifi, as even the city power plant is generator-fed (and hasn’t operated since December last year, as permanent residents have informed me, despite oil money rolling in again). But still – that doesn’t stop malls from hoping for Versace outlets.