The Gambia: Wikis


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Republic of The Gambia
Motto"Progress, Peace, Prosperity"
AnthemFor The Gambia Our Homeland
Capital Banjul
13°28′N 16°36′W / 13.467°N 16.6°W / 13.467; -16.6
Largest city Serekunda
Official language(s) English
Demonym Gambian
Government Republic
 -  President Yahya Jammeh
 -  from the United Kingdom 18 February 1965 
 -  Republic declared 24 April 1970 
 -  Total 10,380 km2 (164th)
4,007 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 11.5
 -  2009 estimate 1,705,000[1] (146th)
 -  Density 164.2/km2 (74th)
425.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $2.274 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $1,395[2] 
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $810 million[2] 
 -  Per capita $496[2] 
Gini (1998) 50.2 (high
HDI (2007) 0.456 (low) (168th)
Currency Dalasi (GMD)
Time zone GMT
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .gm
Calling code 220

The Gambia (officially the Republic of The Gambia), commonly known as Gambia by its residents,[citation needed] is a country in Western Africa. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, bordered to the north, east, and south by Senegal, with a small coast on the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

Its borders roughly correspond to the path of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the country's center and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its size is almost 10,500 km² with an estimated population of 1,700,000.

On 18 February 1965, Gambia was granted independence from the United Kingdom and joined The Commonwealth. Banjul is Gambia's capital, but the largest conurbation is Serekunda.

The Gambia shares historical roots with many other west African nations in the slave trade, which was key to the establishment of a colony on the Gambia river, first by the Portuguese and later by the British. Since gaining independence in 1965, The Gambia has enjoyed relative stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.

An agriculturally rich country, its economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.[3]



Arab traders provided The Gambia's first written accounts in the 9th and 10th centuries. During the 10th century, Muslim merchants and scholars created communities in several of West Africa’s commercial centers. Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to an exchange for gold, and ivory.

By the 11th or 12th century, the rulers of kingdoms such as Takrur (a kingdom centered on the Sénégal River just to the north), Ancient Ghana and Gao, had converted to Islam and had appointed Muslims who were literate in Arabic as advisers.[4] At the beginning of the fourteenth century, most of what is today called The Gambia was a tributary to the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached the area by sea in the mid-fifteenth century and began to dominate trade.

In 1588, the claimant to the Portuguese throne, António, Prior of Crato, sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambia River to English merchants; letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I confirmed the grant. In 1618, James I granted a charter to a British company for trade with Gambia and the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Between 1651 and 1661 some parts of Gambia were under Courland's rule, bought by prince Jacob Kettler, who was a Polish vassal.

A map of James Island and Fort Gambia.

During the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth, Britain and France struggled continually for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal and Gambia rivers. Britain occupied The Gambia when an expedition led by Augustus Keppel landed there, following the Capture of Senegal in 1758. The 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia River, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on its north bank. This was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1856.

As many as 3 million slaves may have been taken from the region during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade operated. It is not known how many slaves were taken by inter-tribal wars or Arab traders prior to the transatlantic slave trade. Most of those taken were sold by other Africans to Europeans; some were prisoners of intertribal wars; some were sold because of unpaid debts; while others were kidnapped.

Traders initially sent slaves to Europe to work as servants until the market for labor expanded in the West Indies and North America in the 18th century. In 1807, the British abolished slave trading throughout their Empire. They also tried, unsuccessfully, to end the slave trade in The Gambia. The British established the military post of Bathurst (now Banjul) in 1816. In the ensuing years, Banjul was at times under the jurisdiction of the British Governor General in Sierra Leone. In 1888, The Gambia became a separate colonial entity.

An 1889 agreement with France established the present boundaries. The Gambia became a British Crown Colony, British Gambia, divided for administrative purposes into the colony (city of Banjul and the surrounding area) and the protectorate (remainder of the territory). The Gambia received its own executive and legislative councils in 1901 and gradually progressed toward self-government. It passed a 1906 ordinance abolishing slavery.

During World War II, Gambian troops fought with the Allies in Burma. Banjul served as an air stop for the U.S. Army Air Corps and a port of call for Allied naval convoys. U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped overnight in Banjul en route to and from the Casablanca Conference in 1943, marking the first visit to the African continent by a sitting American president.

After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, the United Kingdom granted full internal self-governance in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965 as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Shortly thereafter, the government held a referendum proposing that an elected president replace the Gambian Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) as head of state. The referendum failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution, but the results won widespread attention abroad as testimony to The Gambia's observance of secret balloting, honest elections, civil rights and liberties. On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum, with Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, as head of state. This made The Gambia the first and last British colony in West Africa.[citation needed]

The Gambia was led by President Dawda Jawara, who was re-elected five times. The relative stability of the Jawara era was shattered first by a coup attempt in 1981. The coup was led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang, who, on two occasions, had unsuccessfully sought election to Parliament. After a week of violence which left several hundred people dead, Jawara, in London when the attack began, appealed to Senegal for help. Senegalese troops defeated the rebel force.

In the aftermath of the attempted coup, Senegal and The Gambia signed the 1982 Treaty of Confederation. The goal of the Senegambia Confederation was to combine the armed forces of the two states and to unify their economies and currencies. In 1989 The Gambia withdrew from the confederation.

In 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) deposed the Jawara government and banned opposition political activity. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, became head of state. The AFPRC announced a transition plan for return to democratic civilian government. The Provisional Independent Electoral Commission (PIEC) was established in 1996 to conduct national elections. The PIEC was transformed to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in 1997 and became responsible for registration of voters and conduct of elections and referendums. In late 2001 and early 2002, The Gambia completed a full cycle of presidential, legislative, and local elections, which foreign observers deemed free, fair, and transparent, albeit with some shortcomings. President Yahya Jammeh, who was elected to continue in the position he had assumed during the coup, took the oath of office again on 21 December 2001. Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.[5]


Map of The Gambia

The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River. The country is less than 30 miles wide at its widest point, with a total area of 11,300 km². Approximately 1,300 km² of the Gambia's area is covered by water. It is almost an enclave of Senegal, with all of the 460 mile border zones touching Senegal. The Gambia is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. In comparative terms the Gambia has a total area which is slightly less than that of the island of Jamaica. The western side of the country borders the North Atlantic Ocean with 50 miles of coastline.[6]

The general climate for the Gambia is tropical. During the period from June until November, there is a period of hot weather and a very rainy season. From November until May, there are cool temperatures and is part of a dry season.[6] The climate in the Gambia is the same found in neighboring Senegal, southern Mali and the northern part of Benin.[7]

Its present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. During the negotiations between the French and the British in Paris, the French initially gave the British approximately 200 miles (320 km) of the Gambia River to control. Starting with the placement of boundary markers in 1891, it took nearly fifteen years after the Paris meetings to determine the final boundary of the Gambia. The resulting series of straight lines and arcs gave the British control of areas that are approximately 10 miles (16 km) north and south of the Gambia River.[8]

Divisions and districts

Divisions of The Gambia

The Gambia is divided into five divisions and one city. The divisions of the Gambia are created by the Independent Electoral Commission in accordance to Article 192 of the National Constitution.[9]

  1. Lower River (Mansa Konko)
  2. [[Central River Region <North and South>|Central River]] (Janjanbureh)
  3. North Bank (Kerewan)
  4. Upper River (Basse)
  5. Western (Brikama)
  6. [[Kanifing Municipality] (Serekunda)]
  7. Banjul {North, Central, South}

The national capital, Banjul, is classified as a city.

The divisions are further subdivided into 48 districts. Of these, Kombo Saint Mary (which shares Brikama as a capital with the Western division) may have been administratively merged with the greater Banjul area.[10]


Marina Parade street.

Before the 1994 coup d'état, The Gambia was one of the oldest existing multi-party democracies in Africa. It had conducted freely contested elections every five years since independence. The People's Progressive Party (PPP), headed by former president Jawara, had dominated Gambian politics for nearly 30 years. After spearheading the movement toward complete independence from Britain, the PPP was voted into power and was never seriously challenged by any opposition party. The last elections under the PPP regime were held in April 1992.[11]

Following the coup in July 1994, politicians from deposed President Jawara's People's Progressive Party (PPP) and other senior government officials were banned from participating in politics until July 2001. A presidential election took place in September 1996, in which retired Col. Yahya Jammeh won 56% of the vote. The legislative elections held in January 1997 were dominated by the APRC, which captured 33 out of 45 seats.[11]

In July 2001, the ban on Jawara-era political parties and politicians was lifted. Four registered opposition parties participated in the 18 October 2001, presidential election, which the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, won with almost 53% of the votes. The APRC maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly in legislative elections held in January 2002, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.[11]

Arch 22 monument commemorating the 1994 coup

Jammeh won the 2006 election handily after the opposition coalition, the National Alliance for Democracy and Development, splintered earlier in the year. The voting was generally regarded as free and fair, though events from the run-up raised criticism from some. A journalist from the state television station assigned to the chief opposition candidate, Ousainou Darboe, was arrested. Additionally, Jammeh said, "I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don't vote for me, don't expect anything".[12]

On the 21 and 22 March 2006, amid tensions preceding the 2006 presidential elections, an alleged planned military coup was uncovered. President Yahya Jammeh was forced to return from a trip to Mauritania, many suspected army officials were arrested, and prominent army officials, including the army chief of staff, fled the country.

There are claims circulating that this whole event was fabricated by the President incumbent for his own purposes; however, the veracity of these claims is not known, as no corroborating evidence has yet been brought forward.

The 1970 constitution, which divided the government into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, was suspended after the 1994 military coup. As part of the transition process, the AFPRC established the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) through decree in March 1995. In accordance with the timetable for the transition to a democratically elected government, the commission drafted a new constitution for The Gambia, which was approved by referendum in August 1996. The constitution provides for a strong presidential government, a unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and the protection of human rights.

Foreign relations and military

The Gambia followed a formal policy of nonalignment throughout most of former President Jawara's tenure. It maintained close relations with the United Kingdom, Senegal, and other African countries. The July 1994 coup strained The Gambia's relationship with Western powers, particularly the United States, which until 2002 suspended most non-humanitarian assistance in accordance with Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act. Since 1995, President Jammeh has established diplomatic relations with several additional countries, including Libya, Taiwan and Cuba.[11]

The Gambia plays an active role in international affairs, especially West African and Islamic affairs, although its representation abroad is limited. As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), The Gambia has played an active role in that organization's efforts to resolve the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and contributed troops to the community's ceasefire monitoring group (ECOMOG) in 1990 and (ECOMIL) in 2003. It also has sought to mediate disputes in nearby Guinea-Bissau and the neighboring Casamance region of Senegal. The Government of The Gambia believes Senegal was complicit in the March 2006 failed coup attempt. This has put increasing strains on relations between The Gambia and its neighbor. The subsequent worsening of the human rights situation has placed increasing strains of U.S.-Gambia relations.[11]

The Gambian national army numbers about 1,900. The army consists of infantry battalions, the national guard, and the navy, all under the authority of the Department of State for Defense (a ministerial portfolio held by President Jammeh). Prior to the 1994 coup, the Gambian army received technical assistance and training from the United States, United Kingdom, People's Republic of China, Nigeria, and Turkey. With the withdrawal of most of this aid, the army has received renewed assistance from Turkey and new assistance from Libya and others. The Gambia allowed its military training arrangement with Libya to expire in 2002.[11]

Members of the Gambian military participated in ECOMOG, the West African force deployed during the Liberian civil war beginning in 1990. Gambian forces have subsequently participated in several other peacekeeping operations, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and East Timor. The Gambia contributed 150 troops to Liberia in 2003 as part of the ECOMIL contingent. In 2004, The Gambia contributed a 196-man contingent to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur, Sudan. Responsibilities for internal security and law enforcement rest with the Gambian police under the Inspector General of Police and the Secretary of State for the Interior.[11]


The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterized by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts (peanuts) for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.[11]

Agriculture accounts for roughly 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% of the labor force. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%. Industry accounts for approximately 8% of GDP and services approximately 58%. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing.[11]

Previously, the U.K. and other EU countries constituted The Gambia's major domestic export markets. However, in recent years Senegal, the United States, and Japan have gained fair proportions of Gambian exports. In Africa, Senegal represented the biggest trade partner of The Gambia in 2007, which is a defining contrast to previous years that saw Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as equally important trade partners. Globally, Denmark, the United States, and China have become important source countries for Gambian imports. The U.K., Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, and Netherlands also provide a fair share of Gambian imports. Gambia's trade deficit for 2007 was $331 million.[11]

As of May 2009, there are twelve (12) commercial banks in The Gambia, including one Islamic bank. The oldest of these, Standard Chartered Bank Gambia, dates its presence back to the entry in 1894 of what shortly thereafter became Bank of British West Africa. In 2005,the Swiss-based banking group, International Commercial Bank established a subsidiary and has now four branches in the country. In 2007, Nigeria's Access Bank established a subsidiary that now has four branches in the country, in addition to its head office; the bank has pledged to open four more. In May 2009, the Lebanese Canadian Bank opened a subsidiary called Prime Bank (Gambia). [13]


Mosque in The Gambia
Saint Mary's Anglican Cathedral in Banjul

Article 25 of the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to practice any religion that they choose.[14] The government also did not establish a state religion.[15] Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 90 percent of the country's population. The majority of the Muslims present in the Gambia adhere to Sunni laws and traditions.[15] Virtually all commercial life in the Gambia comes to a standstill in major Muslim holidays, including Eid al-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr.[16] Most Muslims in the Gambia follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence.[17]

The Christian community represents about 8 percent of the population. Residing in the western and the southern parts of the Gambia, most of the Christian community identify themselves as Roman Catholic. However, there are smaller Christian groups present, such as Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and small evangelical denominations.[15] Due to immigration from South Asia, there is a presence of Buddhists and followers of the Baha'i Faith.[15] The remaining 2 percent of the population adheres to indigenous beliefs.[18] There are very few atheists present in the Gambia.[15]

The Rastafarian religion has also gained momentum in the Gambia. Not as a competitor to the large percentage of Muslims in the region, but rather it is blended into the culture in a way that you may find many of the youth identifying themselves as Rasta at times, and other times as a Muslim. Therefore it is difficult to gauge an exact percentage of Rasta's in the country, but at many clubs in the country Reggae is the music of choice, and the Rasta influence is visibly present.[19]


Gambian woman and child.

A wide variety of ethnic groups live in The Gambia with a minimum of intertribal friction, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka tribe is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, and Serahule. The approximately 3,500 non-African residents include Europeans and families of Lebanese origin (roughly 0.23% of the total population).[11] Most of the European minority are Britons, many of whom left after independence.

Muslims constitute more than 90% of the population. Christians of different denominations account for most of the remainder. Gambians officially observe the holidays of both religions.[11]

More than 63% of Gambians live in rural villages (1993 census), although more and more young people come to the capital in search of work and education. Provisional figures from the 2003 census show that the gap between the urban and rural populations is narrowing as more areas are declared urban. While urban migration, development projects, and modernization are bringing more Gambians into contact with Western habits and values, the traditional emphasis on the extended family, as well as indigenous forms of dress and celebration, remain integral parts of everyday life.[11]


Public expenditure was at 1.8 % of the GDP in 2004, whereas private expenditure was at 5.0 %.[20] Infant mortality was at 97 per 1,000 births in 2005.[20] There were 11 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s. Life expectancy at birth was at 59.9 for females in 2005 and for males at 57.7.[20]


Gambians are known for their excellent music, as well as their dancing. Although Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, its culture is the product of very diverse influences. The national borders outline a narrow strip on either side of the River Gambia, a body of water that has played a vital part in the nation's destiny and is known locally simply as "The River." Without natural barriers, Gambia has become home to most of the ethnic groups that are present throughout western Africa, especially those in Senegal. Europeans also figure prominently in the nation's history because the River Gambia is navigable deep into the continent, a geographic feature that made this area one of the most profitable sites for the slave trade from the 15th through the 17th centuries. (It also made it strategic to the halt of this trade once it was outlawed in the 19th century.) Some of this history was popularized in the Alex Haley book and TV series Roots which was set in Gambia.


Classroom in The Gambia

The Constitution mandates free and compulsory primary education in The Gambia, but a lack of resources and educational infrastructure has made implementation difficult.[21] In 1995, the gross primary enrollment rate was 77.1 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 64.7 percent.[21] School fees long prevented many children from attending school, but in February 1998 the President of The Gambia ordered the termination of fees for the first six years of schooling.[21] Girls make up about 40 percent of primary school students, though the figure is much lower in rural areas where cultural factors and poverty prevent parents from sending girls to school.[21] Approximately 20 percent of school-age children attend Koranic schools, which usually have a restricted curriculum.[21]


Critics have accused the government of restricting free speech. A law passed in 2002 created a commission with the power to issue licenses and imprison journalists; in 2004, additional legislation allowed prison sentences for libel and slander and cancelled all print and broadcasting licenses, forcing media groups to re-register at five times the original cost.[22][23]

Three Gambian journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt. It has been suggested that they were imprisoned for criticizing the government's economic policy, or for stating that a former interior minister and security chief was among the plotters.[24] Newspaper editor Deyda Hydara was shot to death under unexplained circumstances, days after the 2004 legislation took effect.

Licensing fees are high for newspapers and radio stations, and the only nationwide stations are tightly controlled by the government.[22]

Reporters Without Borders has accused "President Yahya Jammeh’s police state" of using murder, arson, unlawful arrest and death threats against journalists.[25]


Even with a population under 2 million, Gambian players abroad have been making a distinct impact in the Football (Soccer) world. Toronto FC of the Major League Soccer (MLS) association has two players in their ranks, Amadou Sanyang and Emmanuel Gómez. Both players are in their first year with the club and have made significant contributions to the team coming off the bench and in some cases even in a starting role.

Other Gambian players in MLS include Sanna Nyassi (Seattle Sounders FC), Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally (New England Revolution).[26]

See also



  1. ^ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009) (.PDF). World Population Prospects, Table A.1. 2008 revision. United Nations. Retrieved 2009-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Gambia". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ Human Development Indices, Table 3: Human and income poverty, p. 35. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
  4. ^ Easton P Education and Koranic Literacy in West Africa IK Notes on Indigenous Knowledge and Practices, n° 11, World Bank Group 1999 p 1–4
  5. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State document "Background Note: The Gambia" (section).
  6. ^ a b "The Gambia - Geography". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2008-12-18. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  7. ^ Hayward, Derek; J. S. Oguntoyinbo (1987). Climatology of West Africa. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 189. ISBN 9780389207214. 
  8. ^ Wright, Donald (2004). The World and a Very Small Place in Africa: A History of Globalization in Niumi, the Gambia. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 149–150. ISBN 978-0-7656-1007-2.,M1. 
  9. ^ "The Gambia - Government". The World Factbook. 2006-09-19. Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  10. ^ Gwillim Law (2006-04-19). "Divisions of Gambia". Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"). Retrieved 2006-09-29. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Background note: The Gambia". U.S. Department of State (October 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  12. ^ "Leader Vows To Rule For Next 40 Years". The New York Times. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  13. ^ Prime Bank (Gambia) is the 12th Commercial Bank in the Gambia
  14. ^ "CHAPTER IV - PROTECTION OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS". Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. 1997. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "Gambia, The". International Religious Freedom Report 2007. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  16. ^ The Gambia & Senegal, By Andrew Burke, David Else, pg. 35
  17. ^ Land, Law and Islam, By Siraj Sait, Hilary Lim, pg. 42
  18. ^ the World Factbook
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c
  21. ^ a b c d e "The Gambia". 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor (2002). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  22. ^ a b "Country profile: The Gambia". BBC News website. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  23. ^ "President tightens media laws in The Gambia". Mail & Guardian. 2005-05-11. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  24. ^ "Banjul newspaper reporter freed on bail pending trial". Reporters without borders. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  25. ^ "Gambia - Annual report 2005". Reporters Without Borders. December 2004. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  26. ^

Further reading

  • Sternfeldt, Ann-Britt. (2000). The Good Tourist in The Gambia: Travelguide for conscious tourists. Translated from Swedish by Rolli Fölsch. TheGoodTourist. Sexdrega, Sweden. ISBN 91-947010-4-8.

External links

General information

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Gambia article)

From Wikitravel

Africa : West Africa : Gambia
Quick Facts
Capital Banjul
Government Republic under multiparty democratic rule
Currency Dalasi (GMD)
Area total: 11,300 km2
land: 10,000 km2
water: 1,300 km2
Population 1,641,564 (July 2006 est.)
Language English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars
Religion Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1%
Electricity 230V/50Hz (UK plug)
Calling Code +220
Internet TLD .gm
Time Zone UTC

The Gambia[1] is a country in West Africa and is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. It has a short North Atlantic Ocean coastline in the west and is surrounded by Senegal so that it is almost an enclave. The country occupies the navigable length of the Gambia River valley and surrounding hills.


Roughly from west to east, up the Gambia River:

  • Banjul - the capital city area, at the mouth of the river
  • Western Gambia The Kombos - most of the Atlantic coast and the land south of the widening river
  • North Bank - the land north of the widening river
  • Lower River - beginning of the narrow corridor hugging the course of river
  • Central River - further up the river
  • Upper River - the upper navigable reach of the river, and of the country
  • Banjul - Capital
  • Bansang
  • Bakau
  • Brikama
  • Ghanatown
  • Gunjur
  • Kartong
  • Kololi
  • Sanyang
  • Serrekunda
  • Tanji
  • Tujering
Map of Gambia
Map of Gambia


Tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May); Natural hazards : drought (rainfall has dropped by 30% in the last 30 years).


Flood plain of the Gambia river flanked by some low hills - the highest point is just 53m above sea level!


The Gambia gained its independency from the UK on 18th February 1965. A constitution was written on 24th April 1970, before being suspended in July 1994, before being rewritten and approved by national referendum on 8th August 1996. It was reestablished in January 1997

The Gambia formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia with Senegal between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty. A military coup in 1994 overthrew the president and banned political activity, but a new 1996 constitution and presidential elections, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, completed a nominal return to civilian rule. The country undertook another round of presidential and legislative elections in late 2001 and early 2002.

National Holidays

The Gambia celebrates its independence day on 18th February. This small country gained its independency in 1965.

A beach in Gambia
A beach in Gambia

Gambia is becoming a popular vacation destination for Northern Europeans. Therefore, many charter and holiday operators offer reasonable airfare and accommodation if desired.


US, Canadian and South African citizens must obtain a Gambian visa before entering the Gambia. Visa can be obtained at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar. Single entry visas cost $100 USD, 25,000CFA or multi-entry for three month period cost 30,000CFA. New Zealanders, Australians, Taiwanese, British, Finnish, Dutch, and some Europeans may not require visas for stays up to 90 days. Always check with the High Commission or Embassy before making travel arrangements.

By plane

There are regular flights from Nigeria by Bellview which come 2 times a week on Wednesdays and Fridays. Also, there are daily flights from Dakar provided by Air Senegal and Slok Air. Spanair operates regular (weekly) flights to/from Barcelona and Madrid (Spain). During the tourist season (October to April), there are regular scheduled flights direct from cities such as Manchester, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Current charter operators include Monarch Airlines, First Choice Airways, Thomas Cook Airlines, Transavia, and Arkefly. However, several of these often book tickets through tour operators. It should be noted that booking one-way or round trip tickets originating in Gambia on these airlines can be difficult or impossible.

By car

Sept-places or bush taxis run from Dakar to Banjul and Banjul to Ziguinchor.

It is possible use your private car to drive from Senegal to The Gambia via the border town of Amdalli (just north of Barra). The border crossing is pretty stright forward. You will need your V5 logbook. The road approching the border from Sengal is terrible and its easier to drive next to the road as opposed to on it. Check before you travel if it is ok to bring in a right hand drive vehicle, as there are conflicting reports on the possiblity of this (though we did).

By bus

There are direct GPTC buses running from Barra (a ferry ride away from Banjul) to Dakar [2], but these are not recommended as they are slower than the bush taxis.

By boat

It is possible privately charter small fishing vessels from Dakar and nehiboring areas; though this can be fairly expensive and slow should one not be proficient at bargaining.

Get around

By car

A 4WD is recommended if you plan to rent a car, since the roads often are in bad condition and only a minority is paved.

There are two types of cabs: green ones (tourist cabs) and yellow ones (regular cabs). Green cabs are expensive and the price is regardless of the number of passengers. Although there is no MOT system in Gambia, these taxis must have basics such as seat belts and working indicators. Yellow taxis are much cheaper and the price depends on the number of persons in the cab. They are used mainly by locals, and in many tourist areas they are prohibited from picking up tourists. Often it is worth if to walk a little to get a yellow taxi.

By bike

You can rent a bike from pretty much anyone that owns one at a negotiated rate. Cycling on major roads can be risky, as motorist safety is unreliable, some roads are not well-maintained, sand and steep shoulders cause road hazards, and pedestrians may walk or veer onto the open road without warning. In high traffic areas, taxis and vans often cut off cyclists to pick up travelers and the car horn may be used excessivly to warn of impending passage.

By thumb

No, don't use your thumb. It is an obscene gesture in Gambia, instead wave if you want a car to stop. As anywhere, hitching is quite risky business, so be careful with what cars you enter and never hitch at night. Also, Gambian motorists will expect you to pay for the ride, so have some cash ready.

By boat

The Gambia River is navigable the entire length of the country.

Guided tours

There are many companies that offer guided tours in Gambia.

There are also official tourist guides that will arrange transportation and guide you. They offer a good service and you will get to travel in a small group (usually 1 to 6 persons). Beware that there are false official guides, so always meet them at their offices, around tourist resorts.


Languages spoken in Gambia are English (the official language), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, sarrancule and other indigenous vernaculars.

  • Kora is the main music instrument of the Mandinka tribe, and could be considered the national instrument of Gambia. It is 21-stringed and built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator. It sounds like a mixture of harp and flamenco guitar. Real koras can be very expensive but small souvenir versions are also available.
  • Tailor made clothes can be bought at cheap prices.
  • wood carvings
  • wooden masks
  • african drums
  • hand-woven table runners and place mats.
  • Batik and tie-dye fabric.
typical craft shop
typical craft shop
  • 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.
  • Gambia's own beer, Julbrew[3] is worth a try. It's made by Banjul Breweries, who also make soft drinks.
  • Palm Wine is juice from palmtrees that is collected and fermented. It is used as a kind of wine by the locals, and you may get a chance to try it if you go on a tour to rural Gambia.
  • Baobab juice
Baobab fruit
Baobab fruit


There are many luxury 4 and 5 star resorts along the Atlantic coastline. Further in land there are eco camps and lodges which offer basic accommodation usually in natural surroundings, such as Balaba Nature Camp near Kartong (

Entrance to Abuko Nature Reserve
Entrance to Abuko Nature Reserve
  • Abuko Nature Reserve. open daily 8 AM - 6.30 PM. Nature park situated outside the village of Lamin in the Kombo North District, 25 km from Banjul. At 105 hectares it is one of the smallest (if not the smallest) protected areas in Africa, but it still offers a good introduction to the Gambian wildlife. For instance there's monkeys, crocodiles and some 300 species of birds GMD 35.  edit
  • Four Wheel Drive Adventure. Very popular tours visiting schools, country homes, and distilleries.
  • James Island (Roots tour). An excursion inspired by Alex Haley's bestseller and movie Roots. You can go there on cruise up the centre of the wide Gambia river, towards the former French trading post of Albreda and the village of Juffureh. Views of the river bank are distant. Visit the setting of Roots, an old slave trade station. Tourists are overwhelmed by locals who appear only when the boat arrives, and disappear when the boat leaves. Locals are persistent in begging for money and thrusting craft items under tourists noses. Locals insist on being paid to appear in photos. Or you go by car, e.g. with th official tourist guides on the small roads on the North Bank and sail in a pirogue from Juffareh.  edit
  • Kachikally Crocodile Pool. very popular, many crocodiles (West African Nile Crocs), opportunity to touch/pat West African Nile Crocodiles. GMD 50.  edit
  • Senegal - 1-3 day trips. Warning - non-EU citizens such as New Zealanders and Australians must obtain a visa. The application takes 3 days.

The Bumsters

Many of Gambia's unemployed young men have discovered that engaging (and sometimes hassling) tourists can be as rewarding as a real job. It's not a coincidence that there's a name for such persons: Bumster. Be prepared for personal questions, sob stories, not-asked-for "favors" and self-proclaimed friendship, all with the purpose of winning your favor or opening your wallet. Those not desiring such attention must use a combination of polite declination, wit, and when necessary firm refusal to be left alone.

There are a number of very commonly used scams in the Gambia. If someone stops you on the street, they may tell you that they remember you from the hotel you're staying at and that they work there. They may invite you to another hotel, but this could be a scam to attempt to rob you. Also, because people are constantly looking for ways to support themselves, if they offer you assistance or directions, it may be understood that they expect some monetary compensation.

Scams also exist in which marijuana is offered to tourists or they are are invited to come smoke in a home, only to find police waiting for a hefty bribe.

A simple "Sorry, I am in a hurry" could suffice to dismiss them. But don't tell them why you are in a hurry and don't say anything else after that as this may lead to a conversation - and this could lead to unwanted attention and possibly a scam.

Also remember that some Bumsters are not unemployed or young and never fall for hardship stories. One last word of warning: should you feel you want to give a person some money out of sympathy or just to get rid of them it will certainly lead them to ask you for more money at a later date should you meet again. Some recommend a stern and harsh response to such requests, but this should be informed by your values and the relationship formed with the individual in question. Keep in mind, however, that you may see this person again, and they could truly be helpful if you're in a jam or need information. Many people in tourist areas are merely 'friendly facilitators' who may hope for an exchange of favors, but are genuinely harmless. Being overly guarded could deny you an offer to join a local family for a traditional meal, or to personally meet one of the craftspeople who make the local goods for sale.

The Gambia is a great holiday destination but just keep your guard up at all times.

When swimming, be aware that the currents in the Atlantic waters can be strong. Always look out for flags on the tourist beaches indicating the level of danger on a red - yellow - green scale.

Gays should note that they could be in extreme danger in Gambia. See the following articles:

Gambia Gay Death Threat Condemned [4]

Gambian Police Arrest Two Spanish Men for "Homosexual Proposals" [5]

Stay healthy

Yellow fever vaccination is strongly recommended. Meningitis vaccination is recommended. Anti-malaria pills are also necessary. Most cases of malaria in the Gambia are contracted between June and December. Mefloquine, Doxycycline or Malarone are the medicines of choice for the Gambia, and for most of sub-Saharan Africa, because of the increasing chloroquine resistance.

It is a good idea to bring insect repellent, sunscreen and other health items from your home country since these may be hard to find in some areas.


Always ask before you take a photo of anyone. Some Gambians have certain beliefs about having their picture taken, in particular by a stranger.

  • Senegal is both north and south of Gambia. There are excursion to e.g. Fathala Reserve just north of the border.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to Gambia article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Alternative forms

  • The Gambia (dated)

Proper noun




  1. A country in Western Africa. Official name: The Republic of The Gambia.


See also


Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia fi

Proper noun

Gambia (stem Gambi-*)

  1. Gambia


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de

Proper noun

Gambia n.

  1. Gambia

Derived terms


Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Gambia m.

  1. Gambia

Derived terms



Proper noun


  1. Gambia

Related terms



  • IPA: /ˈɡambja/

Proper noun

Gambia f.

  1. Gambia


Singular Plural
Nominative Gambia Gambie
Genitive Gambii Gambii
Dative Gambii Gambiom
Accusative Gambię Gambie
Instrumental Gambią Gambiami
Locative Gambii Gambiach
Vocative Gambio Gambie

Derived terms

  • Gambijczyk m., Gambijka f.
  • adjective: gambijski


Proper noun


  1. Gambia

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