Gambia: Holidays, national customs, climate
|January 1||New Year|
|February 18||Independence day|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|July 22nd and 23rd||Days of revolution|
Source: Countryaah – Gambia Holidays
There are also various Islamic holidays that change every year. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following day is a public holiday. The dates for the Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and therefore shift every year. During the fasting month of Ramadan, which precedes the feast day Eid-al-Fitr, Muslims do not eat during the day, but only after sunset. Many restaurants are therefore closed during the day. The festivals Eid al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitr last 2-10 days depending on the region.
The Gambia has a subtropical climate with two different seasons – instead of four, as in Europe:
The rainy season lasts from July to October. During this time, the humidity rises to over 80%. Every year around 1,500 mm of precipitation falls on the coast and 1,000 mm inland.
The dry season lasts from November to June. During this time, the northeast trade wind blows, which is also called Harmattan in West Africa. It brings hot and dry air from the Sahara. This reduces the humidity to 30-60%.
In Banjul (capital) on the coast, the daytime temperatures are between 29-31 °C all year round. At night the temperatures between June and October are around 16-20 °C. From November to April, the nighttime temperatures fluctuate between 10-16 °C. It’s not much warmer inland either.
For guests in an Islamic country, consideration for the local customs is required. Women in particular should pay attention to decent clothing. Beach clothing outside the bathing zone is taboo, and long pants are also recommended for men outside the hotel zones. Photographing locals without their permission must be avoided at all costs, as the image of people is traditionally a taboo in Islamic countries.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that GA stands for the nation of Gambia as a two-letter acronym.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
James Island is located in the Gambia River – about 30 km from its mouth in the Atlantic.
The island was named after the British King James II of England.
In 1651, the settlers built a fortress which they named after Jacob Kettler. The island was particularly interesting because of the gold finds, which allowed for brisk trade. Later the slave trade flourished on the island.
In 1695 the French occupied the fortress and soon afterwards the fort was destroyed several times in further fighting and later rebuilt again and again. After the slave trade was officially banned by the British in 1807, Fort Six-Gun Battery and Fort Bullen were built to stop the illegal slave trade, which continued to flourish.
James Island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.
Megalithic stone circles of Senegambia
The Senegambian stone circles are located on the banks of the Gambia River in the West African states of Gambia and across borders in Senegal.
There are more than 1,000 monuments, mainly grouped into 4 groups: Sine Ngayène, Wanar, Wassu and Kerr Batch.
The stones were erected on former graves around the 8th century and form the oldest megalithic (megaliths are mostly uncut, large stone blocks) buildings. A stone weighs up to 10 tons and is up to 2.5 m high. Almost all of them consist of iron-rich rock. Since weapons were found, archaeologists suspected that they were rulers’ graves. These stone circles have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. The world cultural heritage crosses borders and is located in both Gambia and Senegal.
The capital of the Gambia, formerly called Bathurst, is just the fifth largest city in the country with around 33,000 residents. Due to its location on the sandbar island of St. Mary’s Island, further growth of the city is not possible. Banjul is bordered by mangrove swamps and is connected to the rapidly expanding Serrekunda via the Banjul-Serekunda Highway. The landmark of the Gambia, the 35 meter high Arch 22, is located in the capital Banjul, which is well worth seeing.
Approximately 95,000 people live in Gambia’s second largest city, known for its wood carvings. The city is considered the center of the music of Gambia and can be proud of the Gambia College.
Serekunda is the largest and the economic capital of the country with approx. 380,000 residents. It is connected to the Gambia capital on an island via the Banjul-Serrekunda Highway.
Arch 22 in Banjul
If Gambia has a landmark, it is the gigantic triumphal arch or victory gate in the capital Banjul. The tallest structure in the country at 35 m was inaugurated on July 22, 1996 and commemorates the military coup by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh. He was the country’s president from July 22, 1994 to January 2017.
The Arch 22 is based on designs by the Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby, who also designed the new airport building at Banjul International Airport. Visitors have the fascinating opportunity to conquer the arch up a spiral staircase and enjoy the view of the city. A museum and a café have also been set up on the upper floor.
Denton Bridge near Banjul
This girder bridge, 210 m long and 20 m wide, connects St. Mary’s Island with the mainland. The bridge, nicknamed “Check Point Charlie” because of the increased number of police checks, was named after Sir George Chardin Denton (1851-1928), governor of the Gambia colony at the time.
Lamin Lodge near Lamin
The popular excursion destination near Lamin is completely surrounded by mangrove forest and the Tanbi Wetland Complex nature reserve. Interestingly, the lodge was quite angled and constructed on several floors in pile construction. The Lamin Lodge, which is enclosed by water, can be reached via a jetty.
National Assembly in Banjul
The National Assembly of Gambia meets in a parliament building, which can be found in Banjul’s small government district on Independence Drive. It is a circular and flat structure that looks rather tiny against the background of the 35 meter high Arch 22.
Pipeline Mosque in Serekunda
The main mosque in Gambia’s largest city is located on Kairaba Avenue, the former Pipeline Road. The gigantic mosque has an area of 30 × 65 m and is one of the main attractions of Serrekunda.
House des Maurel Frères in Juffure
The house of Maurel Frès, built by the English in 1840, is part of the James Island UNESCO World Heritage Site and related sites (see above) and is located in the historically very interesting town of Juffure. The house named after the trader Maurel is now used as a museum, in which exhibitions on the slave trade can be seen.
Kerr Batch Circles Museum
The museum, which has existed since 2005, is dedicated to the Gambian stone circles and shows exhibits that relate to the culture of the Fulani and Wolof.
Museum in Arch 22 in Banjul
In Gambia’s tallest building there is a small museum on the upper floor, which exhibits among other things agricultural tools, weapons and clothing. The stool on which President Yahya Jammeh is said to have been sitting when he wrote his speech on the seizure of power is somewhat bizarre.
Museum of Kachikally in Bakau
The museum in Bakau, which belongs to the sacred crocodile basin, has been showing numerous exhibits on the Gambian history since 2004.
National Museum in Banjul
The National Museum of Banjul has exhibits on the history of Gambia
Tanje Village Museum in Tanje
This is more of a museum village in Tanje, with whose help one can learn more about traditional life and the original culture of Gambia.
Places of worship
Sacred crocodile basin of Kachikally in Bakau
This is a privately operated place of worship in Bakau, which alludes to the crocodile, mythologically transfigured for Gambia, which is worshiped as a sacred animal and symbol of fertility. The sacred crocodile basin consists of the actual basin with around 70 Nile crocodiles, whose petting is said to bring rich children’s blessings, as well as a museum. The animals are considered sacred, are allowed to move around freely and live in a basin that is supplied with water by a stream. In addition to the sacred crocodile tank of Kachikally, there are two other tourist pools in Berending and Kartong.
Megalithic stone circles near Wassu
The cult sites in the form of concentric double circles each consist of up to 20 monoliths that weigh several tons and are up to three meters high. Archaeologists found tombs with jewelry and weapons nearby.
Stone circle near Kerr Batch
Here you can see what is certainly the most impressive megalith in the whole country on a smaller area near Kerr Batch. It is V-shaped and carved from a single piece.
Abuko Nature Reserve
This small nature reserve extends along the banks of the Gambia tributary, Lamin Bolong.
The reserve of around 1 km² = 100 hectares was established in 1968. Around 250 different bird species as well as various antelope and monkey species, genet cats, hyenas, hippos and crocodiles live in the lush vegetation.
Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve
It was the Bao Bolong River that gave this nature reserve its name. It has existed since 1993, but was expanded to 22,000 hectares a few years later. In the very flat area there are numerous fascinating ecosystems, mangrove forests, savannas and salt marshes. But the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is also a true paradise for ornithologists. The highlight of every visit to the wetland, which has not yet been fully developed for tourists, is a boat tour through the mangroves. Incidentally, this is done with pirogues.
Kiang West National Park
With its 11,500 hectares, this nature reserve is the largest in the Gambia. It is structured geographically by wet savannahs, gallery and mangrove forests. Mongoose, crocodiles and lynx live in the park.
Niumi National Park The Niumi National Park
has existed in Gambia’s north-west since 1987. It spreads over an area of 4,940 hectares and also includes the small island of Jinack Island with its eleven kilometers long beach. The park is the living environment of a breathtaking flora and fauna.
River Gambia National Park
Chimpanzees were released in 1979 in the sanctuary on Baboon Island
Tanbi Wetland Complex
The extensive mangrove nature reserve on the small island of St. Mary’s Island spreads over more than 4,500 hectares and is well worth seeing for nature lovers due to the tangled mangroves and the beautiful bird life.
Tanji Bird Reserve
Another must-see for any ornithologist is the Tanji Bird Reserve, also known as Karinti. The impressive national park has existed since 1993 and sees itself as a bird sanctuary, which includes the small river Tanji and the offshore islands of Bijol Islands as well as an approximately 200 hectare mngroven forest.