Facts and figures
The official language
The Gambia – rich culture & courageous people
The Gambia – the Smiling Coast, to use the term beloved of a million travel agents – is indeed one of the friendliest countries in the world. But the smiles of this friendly nation did not come easily. With a complex history dating back to Roman times, The Gambia has been subject to colonial rule by the Portuguese, the Germans, the French and the British, before finally gaining independence in 1965.
The Fight for Freedom
After centuries of colonisation, The Gambia finally achieved independence in 1965. Following a period of civil unrest, military officer (and later President) Yahyah Jammeh took control in a military coup in 1994. There he remained until being voted out of office in 2016. The handover was not without difficulties, caused by the now-former President’s refusal to accept the results of the election in which he was voted out of office. Some months of confusion followed. The newly-elected President-in-waiting Adama Barrow fled to neighbouring Senegal for his own safety, where he was duly sworn into office as the President of The Gambia.
The scales were finally tipped by the voice of Gambian youth. They united under the social media hashtag of #GambiaHasDecided, and voluble street protests ensued. One of the key moments of the movement happened during the OpenMicFest 2016 when artists saw their chance to use their power as musicians and to spread their democratic opinions. Finally persuaded that his time was over, Jammeh departed in early 2017. President Adama Barrow was sworn in, this time in the country’s capital Banjul, and was appointed to a 5-year term. The world congratulated The Gambia upon achieving a rare bloodless revolution.
Mosaic of overlapping cultures
Creol / Aku, Marabout
Jola / Karoninka
With a mere four thousand square miles of territory, The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa. Situated along both banks of the River Gambia and, with the exception of its 80 kilometers of coastline, entirely surrounded by neighbouring Senegal, the tiny country is nonetheless one of the most diverse in the region, and also one of the most tolerant.
Home to a diverse and multi-cultural society with many ethnic groups, The Gambian tribal groups are today integrated and all tribal lineages thoroughly intermixed. Today’s Gambia is a mosaic of overlapping cultures.
It was a thoughtful Swedish tour operator who was responsible for The Gambia’s success and reputation as an accessible tourist destination. After accidentally ending up in The Gambia following some personal mishaps in Senegal, Bertil Harding was inspired in the 60s to sell the combination of a traditional beach holiday blended with African culture and hospitality to his fellow countrymen. And this he did – Swedes began to turn up in droves. Today, the country deals with over 250,000 tourist visitors per year, thanks to its location and proximity to Europe, with tourism bringing in about 20% of GDP.
Juffureh and its ‘Roots’
The main airport is in the capital city of Banjul, and it is in this coastal area that the majority of hotels and tourist amenities are to be found. Inland, on the north bank of the River Gambia, lies Juffureh, the town that came to prominence when American author Alex Haley wrote his best-selling TV-adapted novel, Roots.
Beach lovers will be thrilled by Sangyang Beach, considered by many to be the best beachfront in all of The Gambia. Nature lovers will find much to appreciate at the Kachikally Crocodile Pool and the Makasutu Culture Forest, a private woodland reserve dedicated to ecotourism. And there’s the Bijilo Forest Park (or Monkey Park), the Tanji River Bird Reserve – six square miles of savannah habitats and marine wetland – and the Abuko Nature Reserve, which is the nearest tropical forest to Europe.
Historians will delight in visiting the old colonial administrative hub Janjangbureh, on MacCarthy Island in the Gambia River and those keen on prehistoric times will be fascinated by the Wassu stone circles, believed to be the burial sites of ancient kings and chiefs and dating back to 750-1000 AD.
Strengthening Gambian cultural industry
In Senegal, the German Goethe-Institut keeps a protective eye on its neighbour. With the goal of supporting, strengthening and developing Gambian expertise in the cultural and creative industries, the Goethe-Institut has undertaken variety of initiatives focusing upon strengthening and supporting young entrepreneurs and self-starters in the Gambian creative economy. These initiatives aim to strengthen Gambian cultural industry by providing training and practical experience in cultural management, technology, acquisition of business skills and access to creative networks and mentors.
In providing training and enabling the development of entrepreneurial knowledge, the Goethe-Institut aims to create new forms of national and international cooperation and develop new business models and innovative actions within the cultural and creative industries.
And this leads us directly to the latest Goethe-Institut undertaking, the AfriCourage project.
Surrounded by Senegal
The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa with an impressively diverse culture.