Gambia is a country in West Africa surrounded by Senegal, with a population of just under 1.7mil. The capital is called Banjul and the main languages spoken is Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola.
Gambia is only 6hrs from Gatwick Airport but stopping off in Sierra Leone by Gambia Bird flights took almost 8hrs. I stayed in a nice apartment in a place called Kotu which was organised by my Gambian friend.
As most Africans know that Jollof rice originated from Gambia which is call Benachin’ meaning ‘one pot’ and there are 2 varieties. However Jollof Rice is a popular dish amongst Nigerians and Ghanaians. On the first night we went to a restaurant and I ordered Yassa with vegetables a local dish – made with rice that has a tangy flavour due to added lemon a limes.
For my earthstrong on the Sunday (I was born on 19th June – but as a Ghanaian tradition I always celebrate the day I was born – Sunday) I had arranged to go to Coco Oceans resort and spa which was situated within beautiful surroundings within a garden of peace and tranquillity. I had a lovely 60mins body massage that revitalize and re-energised my soul and thereafter relaxed in the lounge with a picturesque view of the ocean whilst sipping local herbal tea.
One thing that I did notice is that Gambia has a lot of Baobab, cashew and mango trees. Sweet juicy mango was what I had for breakfast for 2 weeks.
On a visit to Bakau village we visited the Kachikally crocodile pond that is said to have over 100 crocodiles that if you are brave enough can stroke. Some believe the pond possesses healing power. In the nearby craft market I was able to have some earing made and bought a sand painting. As soon as I saw the sand painting I know I had to have it.
My friends’ uncle arranged a trip to Makasutu with a guided walk through the forest bush amongst wild birds, lizards ad baboons. With the sun shining it was a lovely day to take a canoe ride along the Mandina Bolong river which was surrounded by mangrove swamps covered in oysters.
During the trails we stopped at a palm tapping area were a Bainunka man climbed the trunk using a strap made from rope or leaves called kajandak. Oh course I had to have a go and whilst climbing the locals clapped – It seemed easy going up but harder to climb down. Afterwards we tasted some very nice palm wine, but I didn’t want too much because I know how deceiving the drink can be.
One of the highlights of the holiday was a visit to the ancestral village of Kunta Kinteh. It took 2hrs by boat along the river Gambia to Juffureh (Junfureh Joyo) village which is situated on the north bank division. On arrival you are met with the liberation flag and memorial sculptures which represented slavery. Our guides took us to the matriarchy village chief a queen called Mrs Tako Taal and we sat amongst the elders who welcomed us to their village.
We went further into the village and I was honoured to meet the 8th generation of Kunta Kinteh (aka Kinte). On the wall are pictures and newsprint of when Alex Haley met his distant cousin Binta Kinte and Kabba Fotana whilst tracing his family roots back to Africa. Binta Kinte’s Grandson told us the story of the captivation of Kunta Kinteh and Alex Haley home-comimg to his Ancestral roots.
In the village was a museum which housed artefacts, information, sculptures and pictures about the African Holocaust (transatlantic slave trade). Opposite the mainland within a short distance we took a canoe to James island which has now been renamed Kunta Kinteh Island. It is sad to see that the island has eroded over the 100’s of years (due to the wind and waves) and if not preserved or retained may not be there for future generations to witness a brutal part of history.
Juffreh also hosts the international Roots Home Coming Festival which takes place annually.
Gambia is a very small country but has a lot of uncultivated land which could be a good starting place for Diasporians to return to reinject business and culture that would take place all year round instead of just in the tourist season.
A memorable earthstrong holiday, historical cultural and educational experience.
bless Sister E