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10 Interesting Facts About The Gambia
Africa’s Smiling Coast, the Gambia, is known for its kind, welcoming, and hospitable people. Those who have been lucky enough to visit the West African nation have also raved about its beautiful beaches that are never crowded, dubbing it a beach lover’s dream. Want to learn more about the country? Here are 10 interesting facts that you should know about the Gambia.
1. It's the smallest country in mainland Africa
The Gambia is located beside the River Gambia, and is situated on Africa’s west coast, surrounded by Senegal. It’s incredibly narrow, measuring less than 30 miles wide at its widest! Although small, the country is densely populated with approximately 2.28 million people.
2. Gambians vote using marbles
During elections, Gambians vote using marbles by going inside a private booth, with holes in the ground marked with each candidate. They then simply drop their marble into the hole of the candidate they choose.
3. The Gambia is home to nine different tribes
It’s largest tribes are the Mandinka, along with the Fula and Wolof. This does make learning any of the local languages a bit trickier as there are several variations, although as a former British colony, English is widely spoken.
4. Agriculture is a major source of income
The country depends heavily on tourism, but the second biggest cash crop is groundnuts. Around 80% of the population are employed as farmers, but there are issues such as climatic conditions which keeps the industry from the commercial enterprise level.
5. The Gambia once sat at the center of the slave trade
The author of Roots, Alex Haley, highlighted the slave trade from this area in his best-selling book, also adapted for a TV mini series, as he traced his roots back to the banks of the River Gambia.
Currently you can visit some of the landmarks, including the village where Haley’s great-great-grandfather, Kunte Kinteh, is said to have been born, and the museum of Slavery, which educates visitors about the history of transatlantic slavery in this region of West Africa.
6. There is a sacred crocodile pool in Bakau
The Kachikally crocodile pool is home to almost 100 crocodiles of varying shapes and sizes, and a small museum. The museum also has several mystical artifacts relating to the local tribes and is a fascinating place to spend an hour.
7. Bissap is the nation’s number one drink
Blood-red and almost impossibly sweet, bissap or manjo is an infused herbal tea made from the flowers of the hibiscus plant. Typically flavored with ginger or mint, it makes for a refreshing mid-day beverage. Studies suggest that it also may reduce blood pressure and hypertension.
8. The Gambia is predominantly a Muslim country
Islam is the religion of the majority of the country’s population. A small number of Christians reside there, too.
9. There are close to 600 species of birds in the country
There are also crocodiles and hippos residing in the river, not to mention Green Vervet and Red Colobus monkeys in several hotel gardens – so don’t forget to bring your camera!
10. It's one of the friendliest and safest places to visit in the world
The country’s economy is heavily reliant on its tourism sector because of its hospitable and welcoming citizens. Also, due to its position on the map of Africa, it has earned the nickname ‘The smiling Coast’.