When I think back about Gambia, my mind goes straight to the people. Their warm smiles. Their friendly greetings and their genuine hospitality. It may be cliché to say “it’s the people who make a place” but my experience in Gambia was truly shaped by the people I met along the way.
Everywhere I went, I was greeted with warm smiles and welcoming hugs. People asked with genuine interest, “Are you enjoying your time in Gambia?” They wanted to know where I was from and what my name was. Children smiled and waved when we visited schools or villages. It’s no wonder they call Gambia the ‘Smiling Coast’.
Glossy brochure descriptions aside, the Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest and poorest nations, ranking 168th out of 187 countries in the United Nations’ 2011 human development index. Most of the rural population still live under the poverty line. Life isn’t a walk in the park here, yet Gambia remains a stable country in conflict-plagued West Africa and the Gambians retain their optimism and vigor in life.
While this short trip was just a teaser, it definitely gave me a glimpse to how Gambians are like. Here’s a photographic tribute to the people I met along the way, who truly make the place for me.
This friendly lady sells peanuts in a small market along the streets of Brufut, Gambia. She was extremely friendly, asking me if I was enjoying my time in Gambia and wishing me the best of luck on my travels. I had a great time chatting with her and getting to know more about her life in Brufut – people like me truly made my time in Gambia.
We met this girl at a percussion band performance. She’s so beautiful that I had to ask for a photo. With her turquoise head scarf and matching dress, she looked absolutely stunning.
I was warned several times that many Gambians don’t like their photographs to be taken, but this lady was more than eager to have her photo taken. She also wanted to show off the fruits she was selling.
A group of children gathered around us when we stopped for a walk around Brufut. They shouted, “hello toubab (foreigner)!”
This young girl was helping her mother sell tomatoes at a small streetside stand when I chanced upon her. She spoke excellent English – like most Gambians – and we had a short conversation about life in school. I wish I got her name.
This lady at the Brufut market was also more than happy to chat with me even though I clearly wasn’t there to buy any fish.
I was buying chili when I met this lady who was also shopping for groceries at the market. She was surprised that I was interested in the local chili (being a foreigner and all) and that morphed into a conversation about local food.
In Brufut Lower Basic School, I got to meet many young students who were all too excited to have their photos taken. When I showed them the photo, they all giggled and ran away.
These two boys were playing outside their classroom during break time when I found them. They looked extremely surprised to see me. I think the photo captures the curious look in their eyes.
There were over 45 students in this tiny classroom – but that didn’t seem to stop them from learning. The students were all listening obediently when we went in for a quick visit.
This duo was filling their buckets up with water in the school’s tap when I stopped to say hello.
At Tanji fishing village, we were surrounded by people who were buying and selling fish. I snapped a photo of these young boys who had just caught their own fish.
Disclosure: My trip was made possible by The Gambia Experience but all opinions expressed above are my own.