(The Gambia, Republic of the Gambia)
- Location: Western Africa
- Capital: Banjul
- Language: English
- Population: 1,714,564
- Total Area: 10,420 sq km
- Currency: Dalasi
- Curious Alcohol Fact: Alcohol consumption is not widespread except on the beaches and other tourist sites as most Gambians are really not into alcohol consumption, most prefer soft drinks.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 3.37 liters
- Most Popular Drink: Soft drinks
The Republic of The Gambia (also known simply as The Gambia to differentiate it from a river of the same name) is one of the most interesting nations on the continent. This is because it is the smallest on the continent and is cocooned inside another country (Senegal). In fact, I later learnt that the two nations once formed a single confederation (Senegambia) and this union lasted for a few years. The Gambia is quite easy to locate on the map as it has an elongated shape. The capital city is Banjul but the settlement of Serekunda is larger. The Gambia is a former British colony and gained independence in the mid 1960s.
As I saw in many other nations on the continent, The Gambia also has a number of tribes and ethnic groups despite its small size. The largest groups in the country are the Mandinka (Mandingo or Malinke), Wolof, Sarawule (Soninke) and the Djola (Diola, Jola or Djiola). The Mandingos are the predominant group and make up around 40% of the entire population. More than 90% of Gambians are Muslims and I observed that certain names are quite common and these include Fatou, Dawda, Janneh, Jawara and Mamadou. Many of the people are into farming and they are always very eager to welcome you into their homes.
Although this is a very small country, you will be amazed with the number of places that you can visit. I started with the River Gambia itself, which is a major transportation route for people, especially for those who want to move from the hinterland to the coastal areas. Other places that you need to visit are the spectacular beaches, which lie along the Atlantic Coast. From the heavenly beaches teeming with American and European tourists, I headed to the Brufut Gardens, an enchanting and attractive housing estate, one of the most impressive in the West African subregion.
If you think the tiny size of the country is reflected in the cuisine, you will be disappointed and taken aback with the array of delicious meals and refreshing drinks. At the capital city of Banjul, you can sample international dishes from other African, Asian and European countries and these are served at many of the bars and restaurants. Amongst the locals, there is a tempting dish of rice called domodar and this is served wit stew full of beef, fish and vegetables. You can miss anything in the Gambia but surely not a plate of domodar.
You will find the artistic skills and cultural practices of Gambians very interesting and rich. In the villages, blacksmithing is a major activity and you will be able to witness spectacular dances if you happen to visit at a time of celebration or festivals. Storytelling is also an integral part of Gambian culture.
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria).
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