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         Information about Gambia

Gambia is a small country surrounded by Atlantic Ocean and Senegal and have strong ethnic and cultural ties to the country. 

As Senegal was a former French colony, The Gambia was colonized by Great Britain and gained it's Independence on February 18, 1965, and has enjoyed long periods of peaceful times ever since.

Gambia has limited resources but a high concentration of birds, so agriculture and farming with light manufacturing and tourism make up the economy.

Gambian people are friendly, they like music and football, and have an unhurried way of life.


Full country name: Republic of The Gambia
Population: 1.5 million (UN, 2005) 
Capital: Banjul 
Area: 11,295 sq km (4,361 sq miles) 
People: Mandinka (42%), Fula (18%), Wolof (16%), Jola (10%), Serahuli (9%), other African (4%), non-Gambian (1%)
Language: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous languages
Religion: Muslim (90%), Christian (9%), indigenous beliefs (1%)
Government: Republic under multiparty democratic rule
Life expectancy: 54 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN) 
Monetary unit: 1 dalasi = 100 butut 
Main exports: Peanuts and peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels 
GNI per capita: US $290 (World Bank, 2005) 
The Flag: the blue stripe symbolizes the river Gambia, which flows between the green forest and the red savannah. 
White stands for unity and peace.
The first written accounts of the region come from records of Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. Tekrur, a kingdom centered on the Senegal river just to the north, were the first black African people to convert to Islam, in 1066. Muslim traders established the trans-Saharan trade route for slaves, gold, and ivory.

During the late 17th century and throughout the 18th, England and France struggled continuously for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers.

As many as 3 million slaves may have been taken from the region during the three centuries when the transatlantic slave trade operated.
After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform quickened. Following general elections in 1962, full internal self-government was granted in 1963. The Gambia achieved independence on February 18, 1965.

The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterized by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts (peanuts) for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.

Each tourist should buy services from the local people and NOT totally rely on the tour operator services which are foreign financed. This ensures that some of the money you spend directly enters the local economy!

Before the coup d'état in July 1994, The Gambia was one of the oldest existing multi-party democracies in Africa. It had conducted freely contested elections every 5 years since independence. After the military coup, politicians from deposed President Jawara's People's Progressive Party (PPP) and other senior government officials were banned from participating in politics until July 2001.

In July 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) seized power in a military coup d'etat, deposing the government of Sir Dawda Jawara. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, became head of state. The AFPRC announced a transition plan for return to democratic civilian government.

President Yahya Jammeh
The country's landscape is so flat that in the Gambia River's 450km (280mi) meandering course, it drops in elevation only about 10m (30ft). In the lower estuary, mangroves dominate the riverside, with extensive reed belts in the in-between zone, while where the water is fresh, the banks are lined with gallery forest. Away from the river, The Gambia's position in the southern Sahel, a semi-arid region south of the Sahara desert, means natural vegetation is more or less limited to dry grassland and open savanna.
  The country is less than 48km wide and 300km long, with a total area of 11,300 km². Its present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. It is almost an enclave of Senegal and the smallest country on the continent of Africa.

A wide variety of ethnic groups live in The Gambia with a minimum of intertribal friction, each preserving its own language and traditions.

More than 63% of Gambians live in rural villages (1993 census), although more and more young people come to the capital in search of work and education. The gap between the urban and rural populations is narrowing as more areas are declared urban. While urban migration, development projects, and modernization are bringing more Gambians into contact with Western habits and values, the traditional emphasis on the extended family, as well as indigenous forms of dress and celebration, remain integral parts of everyday life.

        Wild life
Over 600 species of bird have been recorded in Gambia, very large number for such a small country. Abuko Nature Reserve was said to be the best place to go looking for them, but there are five other national parks and reserves where the fauna is equally plentiful. We saw some birds there and on the Tendaba boat trip; herons, ibises, king fishers, vultures, pelicans and others. The River Gambia National Park is the place to see monkeys and chimpanzees; Abuko Nature Reserve is also a good reserve to see monkeys.

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