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  • Leila E. Cole

Welcome to The Smiling Coast of Africa

Picture this, lush tropical greenery; the most beautiful lofty trees and banana leaf plants you've ever seen, coconuts galore and heat so unrelenting it hugs your every move. Welcome to The Gambia.

Here are 7 fun facts about The Gambia:

  1. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa.

  2. It's where Kunta Kinte was from.

  3. The local currency is dalasi. For 40 USD$ you can expect around 2,040 dalasi, depending on where you do the exchange.

  4. As the title calls out, The Gambia is known as "The Smiling Coast of Africa".

  5. The Gambia is only 30 miles across (at it's widest). For scale, that's like driving from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Greenwich, Connecticut!

  6. The Gambia has its very own brewery, Banjul Breweries, that produces JulBrew lager (beer) and Youki Cocktail de Fruits, amongst its beverages.

  7. Two of Gambian cuisine's most beloved dishes are domoda - the country's national dish - a rich peanut stew and benachin, which translates to "one pot", a delicious jollof rice.

The Gambia has been a very popular West African destination for the past 20+ years, increasingly so in the last few —hence the establishment of various charter airlines to the country. I was blessed enough to visit this peaceful land in October. Let's journey back together...

After landing at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on the morning of Sunday, October 13th, I made my way to my Mum's. The next day, bright and early, we headed back to the airport to travel to The Gambia. Our plans were pushed back however, as we experienced an almost 3 hour delay. Nontheless we finally boarded our TUI Airline flight around one and arrived safely, after 5PM —landing in the nation's capital: Banjul.

I spent the next, almost week and a half, reconnecting with relatives, meeting family I never even knew I had(!) and exploring some of what the country has to offer. Much love to my cousins from Colorado for making this holiday so special. My trip undoubtedly would not have been as enjoyable without my family being there.

Here are 4 places you should visit whilst in The Gambia:

1. Senegambia Market

2. Bakau Craft Market

3. Kunta Kinte Village

4. Coco Ocean Resort & Spa

I personally didn't get a chance to visit the Kunta Kinte Village but have heard great things about it. I appreciate that the site exists. Preserving such cultural significance is extremely important in realizing and recognizing the way those that came before us had to move and navigate through life in the face of such trying times and hardships.

The African markets were so raw and full of creativity, with local artisans carving, dying, weaving and sewing, right before your eyes. To say they are talented is a mere understatement. Taking recyclable goods and repurposing them into a multitude of different forms, is pure genius and an absolute gift. To think that more often than not their knowledge and pursuit of such crafts all comes down to survival is truly touching. These markets are a culturally-thriving "barter town", a game of price match and compromise, free of capitalist control. I encourage all that visit The Gambia, to check out these markets. Talk about really supporting local businesses.

With a national phrase like "Gambia, no problem", it's clear what to expect from the country's temperament. Having no prevalent safety concerns, you can rest easy and enjoy your stay. I did notice that although some of the locals didn't speak right away, as soon as you locked eyes with them or gave them a smile or gentle greeting, they immediately opened up. Totally warm, welcoming and there for you.

If you're wondering when the best time is to visit The Gambia, it's said to be between mid-October and early July, with March/April being particularly cool.

Here are some of my tried-and-true products that helped my skin get through this vacation:

1. MY SOL STICK SPF 50, Sol de Janiero


And for the record - to really help you channel some good African vibes, here are some songs I had on rotation during my trip:

1. Akanamali, Sun-El Musician

2. Copines, Aya Nakamura

3. Kontrol, Maleek Berry

4. Ja Ara E, Burna Boy

5. Sweet Palmwine, Emmerson ft. Timaya

6. I Like Dat, P Square

7. Panya, Bracket

8. Dream Girl, Ir Sais

9. Kainama, Harmonize ft. Burna Boy and Diamond Platnumz

10. Your Number (Remix), Ayo Jay ft. Chris Brown and Kid Ink

11. Chop Kiss, Bracket ft. Flavour

12. Soco, WizKid ft. Ceeza Milli, Spotless and Terri



Elle Sees NYC
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