The Gambia Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by toonsarah
  • In Bakau
    In Bakau
    by toonsarah
  • Local Customs
    by toonsarah

The Gambia Local Customs

  • Currency matters

    The currency of The Gambia is the dalasi. At the time of our visit (February 2014) the exchange rate was officially 64 dalasi to the pound, although it was hard to get more than 63 and most hotels offered less (at Ngala Lodge it was a reasonable 60 but we heard of one hotel that with a rate set as low as 55).Many establishments don't take credit or...

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  • Julbrew

    The Gambia is a Muslim country but a very liberal one. Not only is alcohol widely available, they even brew their own beer, the popular and ubiquitous Julbrew. This is a light pilsner style lager, very quaffable on a warm evening. The price varies depending on where you buy it but even in an upmarket hotel a bottle shouldn't set you back more than...

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  • Fangbondi

    The fearsome looking creature in my photo is Fangbondi, a Mandinka (Habib’s tribe) circumcision mask. We came across this in the museum at Kachikally and Habib told us something of the custom that it relates to which I have supplemented here with information on a sign in the museum.Young boys in The Gambia, from all tribes, spend some nights in the...

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  • moslims do not drink alcohol

    The Gambia is a moslim country. It does not prevent you from traveling but take in mind that the locals pray 5 times a day and activities are stopped suddenly. Kind of strang.

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  • dress code

    although Gambia is very liberal in its moslim culture - locals do appreciate it when you go wandering about in the villages and up country that you dress appropriate. Nothing special - no mini skirts, cover the shoulders and no bellies sticking out for the women and for the men just make sure you wear a t-shirt. That's all and that is not too much...

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  • Greet, greet and greet

    Whereas in the western world you don't take time to greet people - in Gambia you do take the time and you do not only ask about how the person you are meeting is but you also ask about his/her family. Whilst listing no the locals i was wondering why i always heard the same sentences - asking about it learnt that they are asking how the family is,...

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  • The "TOBASKI" celibrations

    In early January the moslim in The Gambia celibrate the "TOBASKI". To celebrate Tobaski, every household that can afford it, buys a sheep and kills it, giving one third to relatives, one third to those who cannot aford to buy thier own and keeping a third for themselves. The sacrificing of the sheep is a very bloody affair and would disgust most...

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  • tobaski

    tobaski is held in December. this is a massive religious gathering held by all muslims. The build up to it all the men are saving hard to buy their prized sheep, or goat, so expect it to be a bit manic days prior to it. if you want to attend the service like we did women must be covered up. we stood at the back and watched with awe, we did leave...

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  • Money

    I recommend to take all the money you will need in cash with you. That is because I didnt see any cash machines but I have heard that there are two in the whole country.Money exchange is very easy at your own hotel reception.Notes are very dirty so its wise to have something like cleaning tissues with you.

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  • Eating

    The Gambians eat always from a bowl - men from one and the women from another. We get to use spoons because we were guests from Finland but usually locals eat by right hand. Left is for..well you know what. Drinking while eating is considered disrespectful towards elder people. Food was very spicy and we were among friends so it was okay for us...

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  • Local Agriculture

    About 80 percent of Gambia's population relies on local agriculture. The land surrounding every village is made up of small plots dedicated to the growing of crops. Each of these food plots is owned by one family, and range in size from 12 to 22 acres (five to nine hectares). The main crops include millet, manioc, corn, beans, eggplant, and bitter...

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  • LAMIN !

    Just a tip from my Tour Company Rep. in the Gambia. The name ‘Lamin’ is very common for men in the Gambia. It’s like ‘Joe’ in America. He said if you ever need service in a restaurant, hotel or bar, just shout ‘Lamin!’ and someone will come. I only tried it once. It worked.

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  • Be honest if you're not interested

    The Gambians trust you when you say "I'll pass by later and buy something" or "I'll come back tomorrow".Don't use this as an alternative to saying no, they'd rather you told the truth and that way they won't waste their time waiting for you.

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  • Languages -- Several Options

    English is the official language, and there are several indigenous tongues too -- of which Mandika, Wolof and Fula are the main ones. French (the main language in neighboring Senegal) sometimes comes in handy.

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  • Beaches -- Not just for sunbathers!

    Although the beaches are quite beautiful, it's probably not the main reason to travel to Gambia. Plenty of other tropical places to check out. Moreover, the beaches are actively used by fisherman, which might be a little disconcerting to some. Equally troublesome might be the quite active crocodile life on local beaches!

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  • Airport Welcome

    Not sure this is still a Custom in Gambia but before the Airport was extended you were treated to a welcome band on arrival complete with Kilts

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  • Give to charities not kids!

    The Gambia may be a developing tourist destination, but away from this, it is still very basic. No matter how much the children beg for money, it is best not to give it to them, it only makes things even more unequal, as you can not give to all 30 swarming around you! It is best to give to organisations, such as schools or churches, or provide the...

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  • Benches of stone

    At many places in front of the houses you will see these benches of stone, mostly made as a part of the wall or fence.In Ker Serigne we saw a lot of those benches. These benches were often social gathering points for the neighbourhood.

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  • Ready to go ?

    I was always very surprised to see so many broken cars everywhere along the roads and the streets. It looks like nobody cares sbout this.In front of the workshop in Ker Serigne I saw this one. Maybe it was allready there for months, even years.

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  • African dog

    In Africa every compound has its own watchdog. So Villla Transsahara has also its own dog with the Dutch name Piebe !It was a lovely and social dog, very happy when there were people around in the house. But we saw Piebe also walking around in the village together with the other dogs.

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  • Billboard for the president

    Everywhere along the mainroads we saw a lot of billboards with advertisements for all kind of products.In the centre of Serrekunda we saw this huge billboard along the mainroad, promoting the Gambian president, saying `Jammeh for your future´.

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  • Collecting and burning garbage

    From the Villa Transsahara, the house in Ker Serigne where we lived, we brought our garbage ourselves to a place where they collect and burn the garbage. It was about 20 minutes from the house.I don't know how the system works here. They told us, that only non-Gambians brought their garbage here themselves.

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  • Banjul, garbage in the streets

    When we were in downtown Banjul we strolled around in the streets. Some of them were very lively with a lot of colourful streetstalls.We were very surprised to see all these huge heaps of garbage everywhere along the streets and wondered, if somebody would come to collect it or not.

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  • Banjul, tailor

    Descending one of the local buses in Ker Serigne, my trousers teared. There was a tear of almost 40 cm in it.Because it was one of my favourite trousers and I brought only two pairs, I decided to bring these trousers to a local tailor.In Banjul I found a tailor in the same street where we had to arrange the insurance for our cars. For less than 40...

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  • Ker Serigne, wood for sale

    At many places in the Gambia we saw fire wood for sale. But nowhere I saw so much firewood along the street as in front of the local bakery in Ker Serigne.Anyway the people of the bakery didn't have to go a long way to buy their fire wood.

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  • Ker Serigne, ofen of the bakery

    The people of the bakery were very friendly and showed and explained us all about the ofen and how they use it. The ofen was the most striking part of the bakery.We really enjoyed to have this fresh and warm bread for our breakfast.

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  • Ker Serigne. local bakery

    During our stay in the Villa Transsahara in Ker Serigne, we often went to the local bakery in the village nearby with our pickup to have fresh bread for our breakfast.And of course we could have a look in the bakery and see how the bread was prepared, before it went into the ofen.

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  • Palm wine

    We stopped to see the collection of the locally rpoduced palm wine in a small village outside Serekunda. We all had tasters from the same plastic mug - I wonder how hygenic that was? It tasted a little like like a rough brandy - not unpleasant. The palm wine is known locally as Jungle Juice.

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  • Preparing the drums

    The entertaineer explained to us how they heat the skin of the drums by the fire before they start playing. The heat will ensure the correct tautness which again will make sure they get the right sound from the drums!

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  • Exchanging addresses

    Many Gambian people also wants to travel like you do, but they mostly don’t have the opportunity to do it.It’s difficult to arrange a visa and it’s very expensive for them.They’ll probably stay the African continent for the rest of there life.So when they like to exchange ideas and addresses, you should always be honest.But don’t be cruel or...

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  • Ask before you take a picture!

    Most of the people living in Gambia are muslims.It´s against their religon to take pictures. So thay don´t always like you taking pictures of them or their children. But most of the time it´s ok. Just ask first :-)

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  • Religion

    The Gambia Governenment Constitution provides the freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right.It seems people can live in harmony within their local community respecting the next without problems regarding ones religioun or belief. Generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious...

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  • Bush fires

    There are some people that studied these fenomenon better than I actually did. So I took the information from a specialized agriculture site. http://www.afrol.com/Countries/Gambia/backgr_landuse.htm"...Bushfires are in general caused by human activities, and are ignited deliberately or accidentally. Deliberately ignited fires are set to prepare new...

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  • Remember to greet politely...

    Remember to greet politely before you ask your questions. Gambians really appreciate good manners, an answer to their questions is not usually too hard.Ladies remember to cover those legs, loads of lovely wraps available at the markets.

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  • try to learn a few words of...

    try to learn a few words of the local languages, like wolof, Fula or mandinka. The people will love it! And please respect the dignity of the Gambians. To walk around the villages in beach wear is disgusting! Always greet somebody before talking e.g. asking the way.

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  • Respect to the chief

    We visited Kotu township at the same time as President Jammeh was showing off power station to other African leaders. The power station dominates the township yet most of the townsfolk can't afford to get connected. Nonetheless, they made the president's visit as an excuse for a party and turned out in their best. We made the mistake of making a...

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  • Visit a local family

    When getting in touch with the locals, try to visit one of the families or one of the many projects that are sponsored mostly by european organisations or individuals.It is really interesting and one can contribute to these initiatives and learn to know this country from another point of view.

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  • Live is 'Always smile !!!

    Live is 'Always smile in the Gambia - You don't have any problem!'Even in some compounds they didn't know what 'money' is! Isn't that unbelievable?

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  • Remember that the Gambia is in...

    Remember that the Gambia is in Africa, and is a third world country. The standard of living is a lot different to that in the UK. An acceptable tip is between 10 Dalasis - 25 Dalasis. If you over tip it can be seen as being pompous and if you undertip an insult.

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  • When at local or hotel...

    When at local or hotel restaurants, local musicians might come round and play at your table. They are playing for a tip. I was sat at my table one night and there was a newly arrived couple who didnt realise and the Gambian guy played his beautiful instrument continuously waiting for a tip.You have to remember that this may be the only means of...

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  • The Gambia is over 70%...

    The Gambia is over 70% Islamic/Muslim and therefore women need to consider this when leaving tourist areas in the way that they dress. It is not acceptable to wander around in beachwear in normal streets etc. Also when taking and giving things such as food use your right hand.

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The Gambia Local Customs

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