Reddskin at large: The Gambia.

I finally took my first trip to Africa. Starting with The Gambia. Why?

1. A wise friend suggested it.

2. It was within my budget.

3. The 6 hour flight seemed doable

4. There's no time zone difference (which means no jet lag!) and

5. Sun in January? A no-brainer (and also the first time I've ever been able to do so. Because, teaching.)

It was a good choice. My only real regret is that I didn't plan to stay for longer.

The Gambia is a long slim country situated on the West coast of Africa on either side of the Gambian River. It is surrounded by Senegal and has been nicknamed 'The smiling coast of Africa'. It's a hot, beautiful country whose Tourist industry is going from strength to strength. The population is 75% Muslim and 25% Christian. Everyone speaks English as well as one or more of 10 other languages including Wolof and Mandinka. I stayed at a hotel in Kotu beach near the capital, Banjul.

My reasons for visiting were personal and professional. The latter because my work using fabrics of African origin made me want to find out so much more about the countries they came from. I also wanted to visit a place that needed my money, if that make sense? The former? That's for another time.

My trip was exciting, relaxing, hot, eye-opening, life-affirming and lots in between. I learned a lot about The Gambia and, perhaps more importantly, even more about myself. It started badly as my luggage arrived 28 hours after I did (a glitch at Gatwick), but my experiences would fill a book and I shall probably dine out on some tales for a while yet. I'm so glad I went and I would love to return. But I would also like to visit and find out about many more African countries if I can. Suggestions welcome.

So I won't say much more... except enjoy the pictures!

 First night. But with my clothing still at Gatwick Airport it meant Bedsheet chic and ready for dinner!

First night. But with my clothing still at Gatwick Airport it meant Bedsheet chic and ready for dinner!

 Julbrew. A refreshing local beer brewed in The Gambia.

Julbrew. A refreshing local beer brewed in The Gambia.

 President Yahya Jammeh and his winning smile.

President Yahya Jammeh and his winning smile.

 The Batik Factory in Serrekunda is a family business. Batik in process - applying a layer of wax to the cloth.

The Batik Factory in Serrekunda is a family business. Batik in process - applying a layer of wax to the cloth.

 Mud cloth drying in the sun. These might be used as Wall hangings or rugs or for heavier clothing.

Mud cloth drying in the sun. These might be used as Wall hangings or rugs or for heavier clothing.

 Artwork hung out to dry under a large Mango tree. The central tables contain hundreds of folded and ironed fabric or handmade finished items such as tablecloths and bedding sets.

Artwork hung out to dry under a large Mango tree. The central tables contain hundreds of folded and ironed fabric or handmade finished items such as tablecloths and bedding sets.

 Beautifully intricate tie dyed fabric soaking in indigo dye. It will seep for 3 days before being rinsed, washed and dried. Then it will be completely colourfast.

Beautifully intricate tie dyed fabric soaking in indigo dye. It will seep for 3 days before being rinsed, washed and dried. Then it will be completely colourfast.

 Nafri (sp) the matriach expertly models a piece of finished tie dyed indigo cloth, her own handiwork. Usually worn as a skirt.

Nafri (sp) the matriach expertly models a piece of finished tie dyed indigo cloth, her own handiwork. Usually worn as a skirt.

 Cotton Damask cloth tie-dyed to perfection. LOVE. (now mine)

Cotton Damask cloth tie-dyed to perfection. LOVE. (now mine)

 Parked van near Serrekunda market.

Parked van near Serrekunda market.

 Hustle and bustle in Serrekunda.

Hustle and bustle in Serrekunda.

 Local boutique in Serrekunda.

Local boutique in Serrekunda.

 Local beauty parlour. Love the colours.

Local beauty parlour. Love the colours.

 Kamefif bus station near the capital, Banjul.

Kamefif bus station near the capital, Banjul.

 Haberdashery and furnishings shop. Ribbons!

Haberdashery and furnishings shop. Ribbons!

 Battered but beautifully decorated passenger van.

Battered but beautifully decorated passenger van.

 Keep this beach clean.

Keep this beach clean.

 Boys Marching band. Followed almost immediately by a Grown up Brass band (not pictured)

Boys Marching band. Followed almost immediately by a Grown up Brass band (not pictured)

 Grounds of the National Centre for Arts and Culture in Banjul.

Grounds of the National Centre for Arts and Culture in Banjul.

Banjul National Centre for Arts and Culture is well worth a visit. It is a charity that, like all charities, needs donations to survive. It costs about 40 - 50 Dalasis entry fee. Less than a £1. If you're in The Gambia do go.

 Weavers and crafters in The Gambia.

Weavers and crafters in The Gambia.

 This declaration for conservation is from 1977 made by the President at the time Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawarra. Wise man.

This declaration for conservation is from 1977 made by the President at the time Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawarra. Wise man.

 I love this proud photograph of Private Kinte Kamara who served in the British Army in WW2.

I love this proud photograph of Private Kinte Kamara who served in the British Army in WW2.

 Locally made souvenirs help raise much needed funds for the Museum.

Locally made souvenirs help raise much needed funds for the Museum.

 Green tea brewing in progress. 1st cass (glass) of three. This stuff is strong and addictive, bitter yet delicious.

Green tea brewing in progress. 1st cass (glass) of three. This stuff is strong and addictive, bitter yet delicious.

 Strong hot green tea with lots of sugar is drunk in small glasses. Here my guide, Mbaye, creates the characteristic froth for the 1st cass. Its an art.

Strong hot green tea with lots of sugar is drunk in small glasses. Here my guide, Mbaye, creates the characteristic froth for the 1st cass. Its an art.

 Benachin. Literally translates as 'One pot' cooking. Better than Jollof rice? Ask any Gambian (but not in the presence of a Ghanaian or Nigerian. You have been warned).

Benachin. Literally translates as 'One pot' cooking. Better than Jollof rice? Ask any Gambian (but not in the presence of a Ghanaian or Nigerian. You have been warned).

 Matching your clothing to your surroundings is an ancient Gambian custom. Honest.

Matching your clothing to your surroundings is an ancient Gambian custom. Honest.

 Colour in Kotu.

Colour in Kotu.

 View from JD's bar near Kotu Beach - just outside my hotel - that serves Julbrew for half the price. Typically I only discovered this on my penultimate day. *rolls eyes*

View from JD's bar near Kotu Beach - just outside my hotel - that serves Julbrew for half the price. Typically I only discovered this on my penultimate day. *rolls eyes*

 Natural Gambian beauty.

Natural Gambian beauty.

 Sunset on Kotu Beach. Bye bye Gambia. Soon, yeah?

Sunset on Kotu Beach. Bye bye Gambia. Soon, yeah?

The above is a wholly personal account of my trip. Any facts or figures that are incorrect do let me know and I'll be happy to change them.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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