The Gambia- An Experience of a Lifetime
The Gambia is Africa’s smallest non-island country. It is also one of Africa’s most densely populated countries. A few towns are located upriver, but most Gambians live in rural villages. The major ethnic groups are similar to those in Senegal and consist of the majority Mandinka and also include Wolof, Fulani (Fulbe), Diola (Jola), and Soninke peoples. The Gambian economy is heavily dependent on peanut (groundnut) production and export.
The country is known for the beaches along its small Atlantic coastline and for being home to Jufureh (Juffure), the reputed ancestral village of Kunta Kinte, the main character in Alex Haley’s well-known novel Roots. The capital, Banjul (called Bathurst until 1973), is situated where the Gambia River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
HISTORY, PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Despite its small size (10,000 sq. km) The Gambia is diverse multi-cultural society with many ethnic groups and where most people are as a result multi-lingual. Indeed it is not uncommon to find people being able to speak 3 to 4 local languages. Its size and the tempering influence of Islam in the Gambia context may indeed explain why it has a reputation for being a peaceful country as compared to that of other countries in Africa there is a minimum of inter-tribal and racial frictions.
Though Gambians themselves talk about belonging to this or that tribe the reality is that with the arrival of the Mandinka, Wolof, Fula (Fulbe), and other migrants into the river valley (circa 1200-1800) a lot of inter-marriage and adoption of other cultures and practices has taken place between these different ethnic groups. This has had the effect of blurring what differentiates one group of society from another. Traditionally children will take on the tribal identity of their father.
Educated in English, most Gambians are at least bilingual.
The people of The Gambia are friendly and hospitable and life is taken at a very relaxed pace. To accept this is essential, after all you will be on holiday. Whilst the various tribal languages are used by the Gambians to converse between themselves, the official language and language of instruction in most schools is English (The Gambia is a former British colony).
A FEW COMMON PHRASES USED IN THE GAMBIA
|· English||· Mandinka||· Wolof|
|· Thank you||Abaraka||Jerejef|
|· Hello||Asalamu Alikum||A Salamu Alikum|
|· How are you?||Heraba / I be di?||Na Nga Def?|
|· Good Morning||Hera Laata||Jamangen Fanaan|
|· Good Evening||I Wuraara||Jamangen Enddu|
|· Goodbye||Fo Waati Koteng||Ci Jamma|
|· Tonight||Bii Suutoo||Ci Gudi Gii|
|· How Much||Jelu?||Nyaatala?|
|· What is your name?||I Ton Ndii?||Na Ka Nga Tudda?|
THERE IS AN AMAZING VARIETY OF FOODS IN THE GAMBIA SOME INCLUDE:
- Benachin or Jollof rice — a traditional West African rice dish with onions, spices, tomatoes or tomato paste mixed with meat, fish or vegetables.
- Chicken Yassa — chicken boiled with onion, black pepper and lime or lemon.
- Domoda — meat stew with rice and peanut butter sauce.
- Lots and lots of peanuts, the main crop of The Gambia.
- International food. Please don’t be put off by what you may hear about Gambian cuisine, everything may come with rice but don’t forget rice is a staple in most of the world. But if you’re after something your stomach is used to, then there is a plethora of international restaurants to choose from where you can have a Chinese or Indian curry, good old fish & chips or Japanese noodles, and there’s also Thai, Lebanese, German, Dutch and Mexican. In fact food in Gambia is truly international and the fish is to die for.
PLACES TO STAY
In Gambia, hotel accommodation resorts offer a wide and varied choice of places to stay ranging from luxury or standard tourist hotels to guest houses, lodges & self-catering apartments.
As for those looking for alternative boarding on a short or longer term basis with own kitchen there are holiday rentals which includes apartments, villas and bungalows with some additional services such as a cook or security provided by the property’s owner. And finally there are houses for rent or even houses for sale for people looking for long-term stays in Banjul.
Some of the most popular tourist destinations and their resort hotels are listed below
- Kololi: Kololi beach club,Senegambia Beach Hotel, Seaview Hotel, Riyan Apartments, Coconut Residence.
- Kotu: Sunset Beach Hotel, Kombo Beach Hotel, Bakotu, Bungalow Beach.
- Bijilo: Coco Ocean Resort and Spa,
- Brufut: Sheraton Gambia Hotel, Hibiscus House, Leo’s Hotel.
Kololi, Kotu and Bijilo and Brufut are all about a half hour’s drive from the airport of Banjul.
- Fajara: Ngala Lodge, Safari Garden
- Banjul: Atlantic Beach Hotel, Kairaba Beach Hotel, Laico Atlantic Banjul.
THINGS TO DO
Whether you jet over to immerse yourself in The Gambia’s world-class birdwatching, its golden sandy beaches or its infectious culture and vibrant atmosphere, there’s always something ready to captivate holiday makers visiting The Gambia. While it may be Africa’s smallest country, The Gambia is big on attractions and appeal, promising to be one of most exciting and diverse destinations in the continent. Here are our top 7 things to do in The Gambia for those embarking on holiday to the country…
EXPERIENCE THE INTERNATIONAL ROOTS FESTIVAL
Billed when it was initiated as Homecoming, the International Roots Festival is usually held around May with great fanfare and cultural activities, educational symposia, musical concerts featuring international stars, and historical tours to places like Juffureh and other important places. While the ugly and grim realities of the slave trade cannot totally be blotted out of human memory, or from the annals of history, the commemoration has transformed into a joyous occasion of a great homecoming experience and a chance for Africans in the diaspora to connect with their roots and African heritage.
Relax on an unspoilt beach
While many holiday makers will flock to the Canary Islands or the Caribbean for their beach break fill, The Gambia offers unprecedented access to the sun, sand and sea; often just steps away from your hotel. Many of the beaches are secluded and unspoilt, particularly in Sanyang, where little more than hammocks and a quiet bar populate the beach.
Meet wildlife in The Gambia’s nature reserves
Holidays to The Gambia will provide some great wildlife-spotting opportunities for those who have packed their binoculars. Numerous intriguing nature habitats are dotted around the country, including the Abuko Nature Reserve and Kachikally Crocodile Pool. Green Vervet monkeys are a common sight in hotel grounds, proving you’ll never be too far away from some Gambian wildlife.
A visit to The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, will add some history and culture to your African adventure. Away from Banjul’s wonderful beaches there are interesting attractions to visit which won’t require you to don your swimming gear, including Albert Market and Arch 22.
Stay in an eco-camp or lodge
From floating lodges on the River Gambia to stylish safari tents amid the excitement of a nature reserve, there are a number of accommodation options which will allow you to base yourself within the country’s marvelous natural surroundings.
Visit a local market
The Gambia is home to several hustling and bustling markets, all providing a great insight into day-to-day Gambian life, as well as the opportunity to buy some souvenirs to bring home. The craft market in Bakau is one of the best, where you can find beautiful woodcarvings for your sitting room.
Take a cruise on the Gambia River
Holidays in The Gambia offer various excursions and experiences to visitors, including popular 4×4 tours. For a more laid-back day, enjoy floating along the Gambia River on a pirogue from where you can witness local fisherman and aquatic birdlife.viewview