The Gambia, also known as the “smiling coast of Africa”, is a small country on the western part of the African continent. The country is known for its welcoming people and rich history. There are many fun facts about Gambia to explore beyond its size and history.
Common Facts About The Gambia
Officially known as the “Republic of The Gambia”, this is a beautiful African country with an approximate population of 2.4 million people.
Gambia is known for having some of the most pristine beaches in the world. It is a country famous for its interesting culture and deep history. From the tradition of casting votes with stones and their magical crocodile pool with healing powers, there are several interesting facts about Gambia that are worth knowing.
Several countries in Africa are prone to armed conflicts and civil/social unrest. Always double check the latest situations from both your government and the local government advisories.
Historical Facts On Gambia
The first recorded people to land in present-day Gambia were Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Arab traders and scholars set up different communities around many west African countries. They dealt heavily in gold, ivory, and slave trade.
The Arab traders converted most of the rulers of many kingdoms in the region, like the Takur (Senegal) and Gao (Ghana) empires, to Islam. Another interesting historical fact about Gambia is that it was part of the Infamous Mali Empire ruled by Mansa Musa in the early 14th century.
Late in the 15th century, the first European (Portuguese) landed in the area and began to dominate the region.
In 1588, the Portuguese sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambian River to the British. But the two European powerhouses had continuous power tussles regarding who owned exclusive rights over the Gambia.
The Gambia was eventually conquered by the British, and they even named it British Gambia. The British took control of Gambia as a protectorate in 1984. They later became the nation’s colonial rulers and gave it independence in 1965.
The country gained independence from the British on the 18th of February, 1965. The fight for independence started gaining traction in the late 1950s through the early 1960s.
Gambians had already formed some of their own political parties. When their plead for independence was getting louder, the British feared the Gambians would ally with Senegal and cause some war.
To avoid bloodshed, the British gave the Gambians a revised constitution in 1954, 1958, and 1962. In 1965, the British granted Gambia her independence and integrated her as a member of the Commonwealth nations.
Useful Facts About Gambia For Tourists
Wassu Stone Circles
Here is a fact about Gambians: They are highly spiritual people and believe in the supernatural. The Wassu stone circles are one of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Gambia.
The Wassu stone circles are located in the Central River Region of the country and are considered sacred. It is a historic site where ancient kings and kingdom rulers from around 750-1000 AD were buried.
These stones have remained the way they were since they were placed there. It is not a coincidence; within the country, it is believed that disturbing the stones will lead to you invoking a curse on yourself.
Nobody wants to be cursed. That is a plausible reason why the stones remain untouched to date.
If you are a bird lover, you will love this fact about Gambia. The country is said to house over 400 species of birds within its boundaries.
You can spot many of these birds in the forest, riverbanks, and seashores. If you enjoy birdwatching, there is a feast for your eyes in Gambia.
Some famous birds of Gambia include the pied kingfisher, bronze mannikin, African jacana, African green pigeon, ducks, geese, new world quail, flamingo, and woodland kingfisher, among many others.
Wildlife In Gambia
Although the country is not known for having large wildlife, did you know there are some majestic animals in Gambia?
If you want to enjoy watching the wildlife in the country, you should visit the tributary of the Gambia river. You can spot Hyenas, white ox, puff adder, and many other animals there if you are lucky.
Kunta Kinteh Island
Here is a lesser-known fact about Gambia. It was a famous center for the slave trade in West Africa. The Kunta Kinteh Island in Gambia, formerly called James Island, was an infamous waypoint for the transatlantic slave trade.
Today it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Gambia. If you ever travel to this country, factor some time to check out Kunta Kinteh Island and immerse in its history.
Kunta Kinteh, who is considered one of the fathers of the Gambians, was said to be born on the island. The island also houses the museum of slavery. At the museum, you learn the history and stories of all that transpired during the west African transatlantic slave trade.
Sacred Crocodile Pool In Bakau
The Kachikally Crocodile Pool is home to over 100 crocodiles of different ages, shapes, and sizes. The crocodiles are well looked after and are not typically aggressive to tourists. While at it, you can get opportunities to interact with the crocodiles under the guidance of the staff.
Also, the pool is important to the Gambian culture. It is believed to possess some magical healing power. You can check the museum, which describes how the Crocodile pool became a sacred area. This folklore is probably one of the most fascinating facts about Gambia.
Cultural Fun Facts Of Gambia
Domoda The National Dish
The Gambia has some nice cuisine unique to the country. Millet and rice are some of the most ever-present foods in Gambian cuisine. Fruits like Pawpaw and mangos are also common within the country. Vegetables, okra, eggplant, and tomatoes are also staple in the country’s meals.
The national dish, however, is Domoda, a groundnut-based stew (peanut stew). This groundnut stew is made with tomatoes and any available vegetable (mostly pumpkin or sweet potatoes).
This stew is well-flavored with meat stock and spices like onions and chili pepper. Domoda is often enjoyed with other dishes like rice or any swallow food. Beyond the Domoda, there are many delicious traditional foods in Gambia.
Coming Of Age Rituals In Gambia
This is an important fact about Gambia culture. Almost all tribes within the country practice a special ritual that aids the transition of young boys to men.
When a young boy hits the age of 11 or 12, he is obligated to go into separation in a remote area and fend for himself. The ritual lasts for a few months.
In the process, he is expected to learn vital cultural and life lessons, which will help him to understand and take up more responsibility when her returns to the community after becoming a man.
Nine Tribes In Gambia
Here is a special fact about the culture in Gambia. The Gambian culture is inclusive, and although there are various ethnic groups and tribes, they are still warm and welcoming to one another. There has never been a record of egoism leading to tribal conflict in the country.
There are eight major ethnic groups in the Gambia. However, there are nine recognized tribes in the country. The biggest tribes include Mandinka, Fula and wolof.
If you plan to travel to this country, you don’t have to worry about the languages. The official language in The Gambia is English.
Religion In Gambia
Religion is not forced on anyone in Gambia. You’re allowed to choose your beliefs. The most dominant religion in the country is Islam.
96.4% of the Gambians are Muslims, 3.5% are Christians, and 0.1% practice indigenous beliefs.
An interesting fact about these Gambia statistics is that, even though one religion is more dominant, you can never tell that when you’re in Gambia. There is little to no religious discrimination in the country as they all live in harmony.
Borey The National Sport
Like most African countries, Football (soccer) is a well-loved sport in Gambia. The men’s national team in Gambia is nicknamed “Scorpions”. Their highest achievement was reaching the quarter-finals of AFCON (African cup of Nations) in their debut season in 2021.
As popular as soccer is in the country, the national sport in Gambia is actually Borey (Traditional Sand wrestling). Wrestling is famous in the country, and intercity and inter-tribe Borey tournaments are hosted in various communities nationwide.
Beyond competition, Borey helps foster love and unity among members of different tribes, and it’s an important part of Gambia Culture.
Geographical Facts About Gambia
Here is one of the most amazing facts about Gambia. The country’s geographical shape is unique beyond imagination. No other country in the world has the shape of The Gambia, which resembles a slithering snake.
With a length of approximately 11,300 square km), the country is roughly 50 km at its widest point. The Atlantic Ocean borders it to the south and Senegal to the east, north, and south.
The Gambia is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Because of the country’s size and a growing population of around 2.4 million people, you have an approximate population of 186 people per 1 square km.
The climate in Gambia is Sahelian. This means extreme temperatures with varying periods of drought and rainfall.
The country experiences long dry seasons from November to May. They only enjoy a decent rainy season from June to October. Typically temperature in Gambia ranges between 23°C to 33°C all year round.
The terrain in the Gambia is typically flat, with lowlands and grass shrubs. The soil is decent for agriculture and the coastal region hosts many palm trees. There are different unique trees all around the country with Baobab, Kapok, and Mahogany being some of them.
Small African Country
Here is an interesting fact about Gambia’s size; if there were no island nations in the African continent, it would be the smallest country in Africa. This means the Gambia is the smallest country amongst those sitting in mainland Africa.
On the whole African continent, the Gambia is only bigger than the island nations of Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe, and Comoros.
Fascinating Gambia Facts For Kids
Banjul The Capital
Considering the country’s size, one of the not-so-surprising facts about Gambia is its very small capital.
Banjul is the capital city of Gambia, it has a total land area of 12 square km. Interestingly, Banjul is the largest metropolitan area in the Gambia.
One Of Two
Here is a simple fact for kids about Gambia. It shares a record with the Bahamas as the only two countries in the world having the article “The” attached to their names, The Gambia and The Bahamas.
The Gambia Flag
The flag of Gambia has four colors, red, blue, green, and thin white stripes. The blue is said to represent the Gambia river. Red represents the country’s equatorial position and the sun. Green represents agriculture in the country. The tiny white stripes represent peace and unity in the country.
The Dalasi – The Currency
The Gambian currency is the dalasi, and it was adopted in 1971, ousting the Gambian pounds. The Gambian dalasi is further subdivided into bututs, and they are all legal tenders within the country. The dalasi is minted both in banknotes (5 dalasi, 10 dalasi, 20 dalasi, 25 dalasi, 50 dalasi, 100 dalasi, and 200 dalasi) and in coins (1 bututs, 1 dalasi, 5 bututs, 10 bututs, 25 bututs, and 50 bututs).
LEARN MORE ABOUT AFRICA
Other Interesting Facts About Gambia
Most Liberal Muslim Country
Although the Gambia is a Muslim-dominant country, it has less strict rules when compared to other Muslim countries.
For example, countries like Dubai and Qatar have strict alcohol rules. When you realize that you can get alcohol anywhere in the Gambia, you will probably agree that it is indeed one of the most liberal Muslim countries in the world.
Gambians love beer so much that the country decided to brew its beer with the brand name Julbrew. On your travels to the Gambia, you have no problem with finding beer.
This is one of the most interesting facts about the Gambia. Before we do that, try to pronounce the names of these countries – “Gambia” and “Zambia”.
When you read out both names, you will notice they sound super similar. It can be confusing. This means it is rather challenging when you are trying to tell someone something about both countries simultaneously.
For this reason, the country’s president, in 1964, took necessary measures to avoid this confusion.
Instead of Gambia, which sounds very much like Zambia, he added “The” as a prefix to the country’s name. The country is officially recognized as “The Gambia.” That way, people can stop confusing it for Zambia.
Agriculture In Gambia
Here is a fact about Gambia’s agricultural sector. Agriculture in the Gambia is highly productive, and it is the country’s main source of income.
The country’s cash crops are mainly cereal, including corn and millet, but the largest cash crop in the country is groundnut (Peanut).
The agricultural sector employs at least 75% of the country’s labor force. In addition, most Gambians engage in subsistence farming; meaning they only grow enough for their own consumption.
Election In Gambia
Now, this is a nice yet funny fact about Gambia. During elections, the country’s citizens use stone (marble) to vote for their preferred candidate.
In a private booth, Gambians are presented with metallic cans with holes at the top or side where they can slide in their marbles. Every candidate has a designated metal can.
When the British introduced this voting method, it was due to the country’s high illiteracy rate. Still, the country has maintained that voting technique ever since.
Here is an interesting Gambia fact you should know. The country has just 80 kilometers of coastline but still houses some of the best beaches in the world.
The beaches in Gambia are more appealing because of the year-round sun in the country, making it a choice destination for many tourists.
Brufut beach has golden sand and clear water, offering unrivaled privacy; it’s a perfect getaway beach in the Gambia.
Also, the beaches in Sanyang Village are considered to have the best beachfront in the country. Beautiful sand and mangroves make it a perfect place to take a warm afternoon or late evening stroll.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Gambia
These are just a few of the interesting facts about Gambia to get you started. The country is full of fascinating history, culture, and attractions.
From interesting voting methods and deep indigenous traditions to its incredible beaches and people, there is so much that The Gambia has to offer.
As you learn more about the culture and customs of this unique nation, your appreciation for their way of life will only continue to grow! Who knows? You may even find yourself wanting to visit ‘The Smiling Coast Of Africa’ on your next vacation!