In the 13th century the area around the Gambia river was part of the Mali Empire which stretched from the Atlantic to the modern day state of Niger.
Here, the competition for control of the slave trade between European colonialist powers was settled in favour of the British who displaced Baltic Germans from their fort on James Island in 1661 and later consolidated their tenure by building the Barra and Bathurst forts at the mouth of the Gambia River. In 1889 the British signed a treaty with the French delimiting the borders of the Gambia with the French colony of Senegal.
A merger with Senegal was considered in the early 60s, but it came to nothing and the country became independent with Dawda Jawara as president in 1965. In the 80s a federation with Senegal was attempted but cultural differences led to its dissolution in 1989. In 94, Jawara was overthrown by a military coup led by Yaya Jammeh who is still in power
Getting on the bus in Dakar was a bit of a hassle but everything went smoothly after that and we covered the 300 km distance to Barra in five hours including the border formalities. Everyone got off the bus and onto the ferry to Banjul on the other side of the Gambia River.
I dropped my bag at the Keranga Hotel and rushed to the Sierra Leone a High Commission to get a visa. The officials there were quite accommodating and made no fuss to give me a visa. They even changed my French Francs to Dalasi so I could pay for it (325 D or 30$US), but no one told me that the rebels were attacking Freetown in force.
Banjul's busy market along Wellington street was colorful and interesting but the Keranga was run-down, dirty and without electricity. I would not recommend it to anyone at any price.
The following morning I lost no time to get to Bakau were I found a nice room with private bath at the Romana Hotel just across the street from the beach.
Bakau lies at the northern end of a 10 km stretch of the Atlantic Coast that has been developed for the European sun trade. Resort hotels can be found to suit every pocketbook and the beaches have been improved in those places where they were not naturally perfect like here.
Here, local musicians and dancers are entertaining guests of the African Village Hotel across the street from the Romana.
Cape Point Hotel is one of the better places but its rates are reasonable.
Gambia has struck a good balance in its development of the sun trade. The resorts are well dispersed over a wide stretch of coast and not concentrated in an artificial city like in so many other places. The local villages have been changed of course but they have kept a lot of their original character like this butcher in the Bakau Market.
This was Christmas day but it was business as usual for the Gambians 90% of which are Muslim. I had gone to the Serekunda market by minibus to find another one that would bring me to Sukuta where I was hoping to meet some of the Germans that had crossed the Mauritanian desert with me three weeks earlier.
I got us to Sukuta around noon and found the compound from which they ran their second hand truck business but there was no one there. Naturally I was disappointed. I returned to Bakau to spend Christmas by myself but I took this picture of Sukuta's Mosque before leaving.