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Fascinating facts about West Africa’s Gambia

The Gambia is a small West African country, bounded by Senegal, with a narrow Atlantic coastline.

It’s known for its diverse ecosystems around the central Gambia River.

Abundant wildlife in its Kiang West National Park and Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve includes monkeys, leopards, hippos, hyenas and rare birds.

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Muslim country

The country is also very tolerant of different religions, with a small number of Christians residing there too.

The festival of Ramadan is celebrated: a period of fasting occurring for one month every year.

This is followed six weeks later by Tobaski, a family celebration to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son, involving the purchase and slaughter of a ram for sharing with family, friends and the poor.

Nine different tribes

The largest of these tribes is the Mandinka, along with the Fula and Wolof, all of whom live together harmoniously.

This does make learning any of the local language a bit trickier as there are several variations.

Although as a former British colony, English is widely spoken.

Sacred crocodile pool

The Kachikally crocodile pool is home to around 100 crocodiles of varying shapes and sizes.

They’re all well looked after and fed well so pose no danger to the tourists who pass through on a daily basis.

It is still thought that the waters can bestow fertility and healing powers.

The museum also has a number of different mystical artifacts relating to the local tribes and is a fascinating place to spend an hour.

Slave trade

Kunte Kinte Island, formerly known as James Island, was once a major waypoint of the transatlantic slave trade, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

American author, Alex Haley, highlighted the slave trade from this area in his best-selling book Roots, also adapted for a TV mini series, as he traced his roots back to the banks of the River Gambia.

The museum brings the past to the present by educating visitors about the history of transatlantic slavery in this region of West African.

The artefacts on show include chain neck collars, foot cuffs and yokes, and the displays focus on the capture and subsequent horrifying journey across the Atlantic, known as the Middle Passage.

False cure for AIDS

In 2007, the then-president Yahya Jammeh falsely claimed he had found a cure for AIDS.

The treatment involved months of confinement, during which his victims were forced to drink herbal concoctions.


Gambians believe that boys just circumcised are most vulnerable to attack by evil spirits and witches

Before Gambian boys hit puberty, they must go through circumcision in order to be initiated into manhood.

The Kankurang, a respected elder in the community, is the one who performs this operation.

He leads the children into the bush and is also responsible for teaching the boys about herbs, their uses, and their responsibility as men in the community.

The Kankurang duties also involve using magic to protect the boys from evil spirits and witches.

Gambians believe that boys who are just circumcised are most vulnerable to evil spirits and witches who might want to possess them.

National sport

The Gambian national sport is a form of wrestling known as ‘Borreh’.

The Gambia’s national sport is Borreh. Borreh is a form of wrestling, not all that different from the wrestling you see on TV.

The goal of the wrestlers is to eject their opponent out of the ring, take them off their feet, or to knock them on all fours in order to win.

The sport is played in a ring delineated by sandbags.

As this is a popular sport in West Africa, the best fighters get the chance to compete with fighters from other West African countries in international matches.

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Voting using marbles

People cast their votes in elections in The Gambia by dropping stones in holes.

On Election Day, Gambians go to vote with stones or marbles in hand. Gambians vote by dropping their stones or marbles in a drum with the picture of their preferred politician.

This unique system came about 60 years to include illiterate Gambians in the election proceedings of their country.

Before you try to bash it, the electoral officials boast that their electoral commission is more transparent, credible, and fair.

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