A few weeks ago (2-9/11/2017) I was in Gambia – and I absolutely loved it! To be sure, it’s not my first time in Africa. I’ve been to
Nigeria and Egypt, but neither of them grabbed me the same way.
Nigeria (at least Lagos where I went) was OK but too evangelical. Like seriously, does every second building need to be a church? Just as well there’s now an Atheist Society. It was waaaaaaay too industrialised for my liking, and it was slightly annoying that Nigerians don’t like to walk (my hosts explained that “only poor people walk”, everyone else drives or takes transport) or go outdoors (’cause they’re scared of getting too dark?).
Egypt, meanwhile, was too de-Africanised. I only went because I was with my family at the time, which meant it was nothing special. Egyptians were friendly enough when you get talking to them but that was it; even being a Muslim didn’t do much to endear them to me. Having spoken to an Egyptian woman recently, I realised that many of them know the country’s history but are disconnected from it.
And the men smoke too much.
However, I may go to them both again – in the case of Egypt I’d have to go with the intention of seeing the monuments. Other parts of Africa I’m thinking of going include Ethiopia (the birthplace of humanity!), Ghana, Namibia and Somalia (just so I can say I’ve been from one end of the continent to the other. LOL).
Sorry South Africa, too many ‘whites’ for my liking.
But Gambia truly touched me.
Things I loved about Gambia:
- Food: gorgeous.
- Weather: hot and sunny. Enough said.
- Culture: people were so friendly and helpful. Despite the weak economy people took life easy, not rushing around and didn’t seem to be always on edge like in the West. When my guide took me to see his family his children immediately greeted me with hugs – I was touched. Also note that Gambia is a Muslim-majority country, and despite that no-one minded me being murtadd. They were just curious about my Arabic name.
Like I’ve noticed many times before, African Muslims are more tolerant and open-minded than Asians. This holiday proved it yet again.
And they were so honest. The most crime you’re likely to see is someone overcharging you in the local markets. Nothing a little haggling can’t cure. I was told that’s why when Senegalese criminals, or any others from the continent, cross the border they either have to tone it down/ stop altogether or risk being outed. The way it was explained to me is that “Gambians are slow to crime”.
- Architecture: This may be somewhat biased, but the buildings were far superior to anything England has or will ever have. More spaced apart, bigger, more colourful, sturdier (judging from the guest home and the other property my guide was supervising), just more aesthetically pleasing overall. My artisan instincts were satisfied.
- History: my guide took me and another tourist couple to Juffureh-Albreda, where there was an exhibition on the slave trade. From there we took a boat to Kunta Kinteh Island (previously known as James Island, which is now half its original size due to rising sea levels!) to see the remains of Fort James. There was a museum where they exhibited their traditional (i.e. pre-Islamic) artefacts like masks, farming equipment, medicinal plants,
The slave trade exhibition also revealed a few jewels of knowledge: the slavers really knew what they were doing. Over time they selected Africans based on their particular ethnic groups because they learned which ones were more easy-going and tolerant of hardships, or physically stronger, or more accepting of the slavery institution. They also learned that Africans’ spirits are more easily broken (therefore less motivated to rebel/ escape) by breaking up families and ensuring they never reunited. This was done not just in the colonies, as I used to think, but also at the slave ports and ships in Africa themselves. Furthermore, a logbook in the exhibition shows that…
A lot of the enslaved Africans were children! They weren’t just taking the adults and breeding them in the Americas, they were taking kids as young as 4 and 5! Just like they did to themselves.
Why? As Bob Hoskins said in Unleashed, catch ’em young enough and you can make ’em do almost anything.
But just in case you make the mistake of thinking slavery was all there was to the exhibition, check these out:
- Prices: things are very cheap, even when accounting for the exchange rate (at the time £1 = D62 [dalasis]). The guest home I stayed in was only £131 + £3 per day for breakfast. In one village we got a watermelon for D15, which is 24p! Depending on location and size, you can even buy a property for as little as £5000!
People often think things are better because they’re more expensive, but experience has shown me it’s often the other way round. Cheaper things are often of better quality than expensive things. Still not sure why. Just another example of how anti-conventional my personal experiences are.
- Safety: I only heard a police siren on my last day, which indicates that police aren’t constantly all over the place because they don’t need to be. Plus there was no CCTV, that I knew of anyway! If you need CCTV and police all over the place it means that 1- the government doesn’t trust its civilians (rightly or wrongly) and 2- there’s a lot of crime that’s not being effectively handled. Gambia had so little of that! It was brilliant!
Even ‘white’ people, male & female, were walking around on their own. If ‘white’ women can feel that un-paranoid in a ‘black’ country then you know it’s safe! LOL. Speaking of which –
- WOMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!: I couldn’t believe how many good-looking women there were! And despite being Muslim they certainly did not lower their gaze. Whether just curious to see a tawny-skinned ‘black’ guy (it was rare to see light and medium-skinned people), or letting their eyes wander on any moving object as people naturally do, or genuinely liking what they saw, they held their gaze a lot longer than English people normally do. Daaaayum! On my first day I was in a supermarket with my tour guide, and a woman who caught my gaze brushed her shopping basket against my ass – now that’s some sexual assault I can get used to!
Things I didn’t love:
When I went to Britannia Bar with my guide, I felt extremely uncomfortable as I’m not normally a bar/club person. But this was holiday so time to expand my horizons right? And there were so many young girls hooking up with guys (a lot of them ‘white’) old enough to be their dads. Very few of those girls looked over 21, and as stated in a previous post I no longer consider anyone under 25 to be an adult.
Regardless, they are all adults by law (I assume) and they were all very blatantly consenting to going off with these men so…
Yeah, not used to publicly visible sexual interest. Maybe Mark Manson was right that the Anglophone world is weird around expressing interest in other people. And honestly, if that’s the worst of it there is no doubt about it. Gambia is my fave country.