A colorful crowd of people at the airport of Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, makes noise, dances, waves, flows around foreigners standing in line for passport control, smelling spirits with spirits. Rubbed jeans and colorful skirts, strict gray suits and traditional men’s long-necked shirts, multi-colored women’s scarves and hijabs – the arrival hall looks more like a carnival square.
Sixteen hours ago at the Moscow airport in response to the surprised smile of a pretty blonde at the front desk – “Gambia? Where is it? ”- I gave out all the little that I managed to read about this country:“ The smallest state on the mainland of Africa. Former English colony, and since 2015 – Islamic Republic. ” Behind the flight, first to Brussels, then to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and from there to Banjul. And now it was my turn to be surprised: the dancing cheerful crowd did not leave a stone unturned in stereotypical ideas about the Islamic state. Seeing my face, our guide Mom picks up the luggage and calmly says: “Feel the Gambia!” As it soon turns out, this is the universal answer of the Gambians to all puzzled looks and questions.
On small-scale geographical maps of Africa, the Gambia is indicated with a footnote. The strip of land 25 kilometers wide, stretching 400 kilometers from the Atlantic deep into the continent, is like a pin piercing Senegal. But along this “pin” flows the Gambia River, which in its time the Europeans took out more than three million slaves. The local places were also a tasty morsel for the Portuguese, who “discovered” Gambia in the 15th century, and for the Kurds who built a fort at the mouth of the river – a transshipment base for traders of slaves, gold and ivory, and for the English, who made the Gambia their colony.
The Gambia found independence from the British crown only in 1965. The official language is still English, but the adverbs of the local tribes Mandinka, Fulbe, Wolof, Diola, Soninke are also in use. Gambia’s main sources of revenue are peanut exports and tourism. Sandy beaches, the warm waters of the Atlantic and coastal hotels in the vicinity of Seryokunda, the country’s largest city, are attracting more and more travelers to the Gambia – mainly from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. But the real Gambia, of course, begins outside the fashionable resorts.
With the Internet in the Gambia, it does not matter, so the ads and messages are left on the trunk of a giant baobab tree. Here it is called the “Internet tree”
Dutch Caroline came to the Gambia for love. Her dark-skinned husband worked in the country for many years as a guide, made good contacts and bought a piece of land on the banks of the Gambia river for an piton an hour from the capital Banjul. Now in the management of the couple a cozy mini-hotel. On the orange walls of round stone bungalows with palm leaf roofs are the names of various Gambian tribes. “The Internet? Why do you need the internet here? Feel the Gambia better! ”- Carolina laughs and sweeps the river bank with a sweeping gesture.
Among the mangroves in the silt, naked due to low tide, crawling and muddy jumpers crawl around. Giant yellow birds watch the palm branches (540 bird species live in the country, nature lovers from all over the world come to the local bird festival every fall), monkeys can be seen in the forests along the Gambian coast, and a lot of hippos are seen in the river itself. “Just don’t think of throwing anything at all, or the sensations from the Gambia can become regrettable,” warns the boatman Lamme of the Wolof. – Once one of the tourists threw a lemon in a hippopotamus. Behemoth harbored a grievance, and the next time the same boat appeared on the river, it attacked. Eight people died. And the boat had to be written off ashore. ”
Most of the population lives in the villages. The way of rural life in the Gambia has not changed over the centuries – food is prepared on coal, water is taken from wells, instead of a refrigerator – clay jugs
Close Chinese “bus” jumps on the broken dirt road, which leads to the village of Ji Kund. Passengers continually beat their heads on the ceiling, covered with gray leatherette, but no one thinks of grumbling. “Feel the Gambia”, – fellow travelers are smiling. Mutual goodwill in the Gambia is a matter of course. The country is called “the smiling coast of Africa.” Even when the driver of our minibus crumpled the side of the taxi, whose driver changed the wheel right in the middle of the road, both participants in the accident only kindly waved to each other with their hands. I already know what our guide will say now, so I’m ahead of him: “Mom, what’s the secret of such Gambian friendliness?” Mom knows the exact answer: “Humorous relationship.”