Customs and traditions
The Gambians usually have a tolerant attitude
towards one another despite different ethnicities and
religions. Foreign visitors can also expect a friendly
response. Customs and customs vary among different
Traditionally, mandinka has been strictly divided
into four social groups, in turn divided into subgroups.
There was a kind of nobility and a group of free
farmers, traders and religious leaders (marabouts). A
third group consisted of craftsmen and so-called griots
- poets, singers or bards who had the important role of
conveying knowledge and information. A fourth main group
were the slaves.
Overview of the capital city of Gambia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Several of the other ethnic groups were divided in
similar ways. Although the social systems have largely
been eradicated, perceptions of class affiliation
sometimes persist and mean that it can be considered
inappropriate for marriage between individuals of
Health is often done with a handshake and by
pronouncing the (truly Arabic) peace salaam aleikum.
Inland, one often hears the same desire on mandinka,
kaira pray, while in the coastal areas it is common with
nanga def (wolof: how is it).
Food and meals
It is important to use only the right hand to give or
receive objects, as the left hand is considered unclean.
This is especially true of food.
Lunch is often the most important meal.
Traditionally, Gambians eat from a large, communal bowl.
Eating is then done with the right hand or with a spoon.
Rice is basic food, although millet, couscous and
cassava are also common. For this, pots of peanut paste
(domoda) and other tubes of meat, fish or chicken and
vegetables are often eaten. A common dish is "jollof
rice", or benachin ("a stew" on wolof). It is a spicy
blend of rice, tomato puree and spices, to which meat,
vegetables or fish are added. On the coast you can eat
freshly caught and grilled fish and seafood.
A local beer is Christmas Brew. However, most
Gambians do not drink alcohol because they are Muslims.
An ordinary drink is instead attaya, a strong and sweet
tea made on green tea leaves. Brewing tea is a social
ritual that often takes a while.
Traditional clothing in The Gambia usually consists
of long and free fabrics. Women often wear colorful and
footwear suits that also cover their arms and a piece of
fabric on their heads. The men have a kaftan that
similarly covers most things except hands, feet and
head. An alternative is a three-piece suit that is
usually richly embroidered with embroidery, and with an
embroidered hat on. Men in particular, but also women,
often wear Western clothing. Foreign visitors should
keep in mind not to appear too undressed other than on
Weekends and holidays
Attention is paid to both Muslim and Christian
holidays. A major Muslim festival is the party that ends
the fasting month of Ramadan: id al-fitr, or koriteh as
it is locally called. The sacrificial feast id al-adha,
here called tabaski, is celebrated in memory of
Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son according to
God's will. The Prophet's birthday, milad al-nabi, is
also a holiday. The Muslim holidays follow the lunar
calendar and fall on different dates from year to year.
So does the Christian Easter - Good Friday and Sunday
Easter are holidays, as is Christmas Day and Marie's
Ascension on August 15.
A major non-religious celebration is Independence Day
on February 18, which is celebrated with large parades
and military marches in Banjul. July 22 is the day of
the revolution, when the 1994 coup is celebrated. Also
New Year's Day and May 1 are public holidays.
Motorways run along either side of the Gambia
River but the quality is generally poor. Freight is
transported mainly on the river, which is navigable 20
km upstream for smaller vessels. There is no railroad.
An agreement was signed in 2003 with Senegal to build
a bridge over the river, mainly to facilitate the
passage between the Casamance region and the rest of
Senegal. No bridge construction had begun just over ten
years later. The Gambia is probably not interested in a
bridge, which would mean a loss of revenue from ferry
traffic across the river.
The port of the capital Banjul handles some
international freight traffic.
The only airport is outside Banjul, and thus close to
both the coast and the major urban areas. The air links
are good with a number of destinations in Africa and
Europe. The national airline is called Gambia