The Gambia is one of the many African countries with a long history, the beginning of which involved the slave trade as one of the key development factors. After the era of the Portuguese rule came to an end, the country was overtaken by the British Empire that occupied the lands and established the Province of Senegambia in 1765. Two centuries later, the Gambia was announced to be an independent Republic, with Elizabeth II being declared its Queen.
Nowadays, Gambia attracts attention mainly as a holiday destination place. Even though the climate makes it possible to travel to the country all year round, restaurants and beaches covered in golden sand are never overcrowded. People who prefer to spend holidays and rest alone can easily find a secluded beach where one can relax and restore his/her energy resources.
Unfortunately, people do not know much about the life and culture of the country that definitely deserves attention. Today, we decided to fix that and present to our readers the facts that will help to learn more about the Gambia and people living in it. Let’s see what these facts are…
Gambia: 8 interesting facts about the country with 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites
1. The Gambia was named in honor of the river flowing through it
The Gambia River being one of the most important waterways of Africa, it is understandable why the country was named the Gambia. The river, the total length of which makes it one of Africa’s longest rivers, stretches from Guinea and to Banjul city through the Atlantic Ocean.
2. The country’s crocodile pools are sacred
A fun fact about Gambia is that it has a number of crocodile pools in the coutnry. One of the 3 sacred crocodile pools is located not far from Banjul, the capital of the country. The pool called Kachikally is used as a site for fertility rituals and is owned by the Bojang family, the most affluent family in the country. Although the number of crocodiles living in the pool is being kept a secret, it is believed to be close to 80.
3. The Gambia’s predominant religion is Islam
Even though 96% of the population adheres to Islam, Islam in the Gambia is characterized by less strict rules than in all the rest Muslim countries. The fact that alcohol is widely available makes the natives of the Gambia the most liberal Muslims. Some of them like beer so much that they decided to brew their own beer that is known in the country under the brand “Julbrew”.
4. The natives believe in evil spirits
This is one of the cornerstones of the belief system that may seem strange and unusual to foreigners. The fear of evil spirits is so strong that all people in tribes prefer to ignore any sounds they may hear during the nighttime. They believe these sounds to be the work of evil spirits who will do anything and everything to seduce them.
In some tribes, people are afraid of the sound owls make while haunting, a fun Gambia fact. Why? Because the sound is considered to predict the worst – the death of a tribe’s member.
5. The Gambia’s natives still follow one of the ancient traditions marking the adulthood of a boy
All ethnic groups living in the Gambia practice a unique ritual that is meant to mark the transition of boys from childhood to adulthood. Upon turning eleven or twelve years old, a boy is supposed to change his location and go to a remote area for many months. This period is crucial in his life because this is when he learns about important aspects of the culture as well as about his responsibilities as an adult.
At present, the ancient tradition is undergoing changes, with the majority of parents taking their sons to health centers where they can learn and do everything they need to do to be viewed as adults.
6. Gambians do not do anything on Sunday
Since certain groups of people in the Gambia believe that things done on Sunday will inevitably be repeated in the future, these people spend Sundays being occupied with tasks that only bring happiness. In case a relative or a friend dies on Sunday, the condolences will be made only on Monday. Another interesting fact about Gambia connected with the death of a close person is that a widow is forbidden to leave her house while she is mourning.
7. Natives of the country believe that animals have magical power
For this very reason, Gambians do not eat animals that are believed to have special powers. This is one of the many strange beliefs that lead to the differences in the lifestyle of those living in the West and those living in the Gambia.
Pregnant women never eat eggs because this may do harm to their unborn babies. Another interesting Gambia fact is that people never buy or sell salt and soap at night because this may influence a shopkeeper negatively.
8. The culture of the Gambia focuses on the importance of marriage
Since marriage is highly valued in Islam, people living in the Gambia encourage their sons and daughters to marry. While wedding traditions and marriage may differ from one ethnic group to another, men are free to choose between polygamy and monogamy lifestyle. In some cases, there is a certain gift to be given to the family of a bride. As a rule, a boy can marry a girl when she has already turned 18, but exceptions to the rule happen.
Due to the presence of conflicts in the country, those who want to visit the Gambia are recommended to choose guided tours only. The country’s traditions and culture are the results of the ethnic groups’ development and history that many people do not know much about.
I hope that this article on Gambia facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!