I recently took a trip to Gambia the smiling coast of west Africa. It was a beautiful distraction I needed from the my dull grey British life. It’s a country with amazing history and beauty. I can say hands down it’s the best holiday. There is so much I would like to write but I will try my best to condense it into 5 points. Let go..
Religion: Gambia is a Muslim majority country. There is a strong love for Islam and, once I tell people my name was Kawthar they would immediately be in awe that my name is from the Quran and tell me about all the Quran they know. There is also a lot of respect for the hijab more than any other Muslim country I have ever visited. They were countless times where someone would switch off the bashment and play Quran for me which I found quite amusing. I also admired that no matter what they are doing they don’t play with their salah the country is full of mini mosques that no matter what your profession is you will always find a mat to pray on. I found especially unique compared to other Muslim countries is even if there isn’t a formal area for women. As a woman you can just go to the back of the men’ section and pray or someone will just find a mat for you to pray on. There wasn’t the extremes of segregation between men and women that we see in the UK and middle eastern countries . Rather their Islam was open and flexible.
One of the many mosques I visited women prayed on the mats outsides while men prayed inside
White supremacy: I thought finally I’m in Africa the land of the blacks white supremacy bye bye. But unfortunately it’s alive and kicking . Its there in the working class market women you see with red faces and black knuckles trying to eradicate their blackness. Its there in the way white people are treated and seen as gods. One of the funniest and shocking experiences was when a young child said to me that a light skinned black baby cries when I carry him because I’m dark skinned. I was shocked that a young child could say that a baby less than a year old would have a colour preference for whiteness even though they live in a black country. Absolutely nuts!
Black privilege: However there are also a lot of benefits being in a country where everyone looks like you. Gambians saw me as their African sister and everyone thought I from the serahule tribe and had to keep explaining that I’m not Gambian. A lot of people were surprised that I choose to come to an African country for holiday. They admired that wanted to come to Africa would treat me as their black sister giving me discounts which is always nice.There is a feeling of empowerment you get when you know you are the racial majority of a country. I wasn’t this girl with a foreign name and weird scarf on her head I was just NORMAL. Which helped me really relax it was like a burden had been lifted and I could just be me.
History: If you’re into African history like me you will love Gambia. I just watched the new roots series a few months ago already knew that I had to go to Kunta Kinte island formerly known as St James island. For those of you who don’t know this is where slaves were kept for 3 weeks before being transported to the ‘new’ world. I went on a ferry from the Banjul to Barra then a two hours drive to Juffure which is the village where roots is based. The more we drove into Juffure the more I felt was going back in time. No more tarmac roads the raw red earth became more and more visible the closer we got. The red clay houses and vast landscape of nothing but palm trees and termite mounds really gave me a glimpse into how life was like for Gambians all those years ago. There was a small museum which contained the specific history of slavery in the Senegambia region, information about where slaves were taken the Americas as well as the shackles of iron that was used on real slaves.
When I picked one up it was so heavy I could hardly carry it. Just to imagine that people would walk for miles and with these chains on their necks was disturbing. Our guide told us that vultures would just follow slave caravans because they knew they would get a good meal as people would be left for dead as they were too weak to carry on. Then finally took a 15 minute boat ride to the island. As we walked around the guide told us the activities and function of the rooms in the building. From rooms used to rape and impregnate young girls. To where slaves were sandwiched like sardines with rival tribes so that they could avoid rebellion. To seeing the place where Africans were branded like cattle with hot iron. I can only describe it as surreal I almost had to pinch myself to reassure myself that I was there . Suddenly the reality a slavery wasn’t something I was reading in a book or a documentary I was there living, breathing, seeing the point where many never returned. Something that changed the landscape of the globe today its effects are still raw. I know that going to the Island would be a bit too much for some people too emotional but for me it all part of the pieces of the puzzle that helps to understand the struggle of the all the people of the African diaspora are today.
Outside the museum in Juffure, depicting families walking for miles after being enslaved and the vultures in the background awaiting.
How the Island looked back then
Approaching the Island, the original canons placed to ‘defend’ the island from invasion still sit on it’s banks
Poverty: As much as I enjoyed the beautiful beaches and tourist spots. You can never escape from the reality of poverty in Africa. I’ve been to Nigeria many times however I’m always sheltered from the real poverty and usually only taken to the so called nice areas. I went to an orphanage while I was there it was much an emotional and humbling experience seeing babies that are craving for your love and attention it was heartbreaking but also brought this overwhelming feeling of love that I don’t think I have felt in a long time. I few of the children I saw had disabilities and due to lack of funding couldn’t get the adequate resources they need to live fulfilling lives. It really brought to home how cruel the world can be to the have nots and made me appreciate what I do have. Unfortunately in Gambia has the highest rates of Africans leaving for Europe due to the lack of opportunities for those who don’t have the right connections and links to gain employments. Even a lot of the businesses in Gambia are own by Mauritanians, Lebanese, Chinese basically everyone else but African’s. It’s sad to see a continent that is so rich have so much poverty and dependency on other nations.
Me and my baby Liam I was with him for 2 hours I didn’t want to let go
On a final note it was great to explore other west African country and compare and contrast the culture with my own Nigerian culture. I would advise any African person that is 2nd or 3rd generation like myself and has only ever visited there own home country, to go to other African countries where you have no relatives and you can just be free it’s an enlightening experience. Also for those of you non-Africans reading this blog Africa is a beautiful continent with some of the most hospitable people I’ve met in the world don’t just believe what the media tells you go and see it for yourself. I will let my pictures do the rest of the talking…..
The hotel I stayed in called Janta Bi
My future house needs to look like this lol
The river Gambia which is in the middle of the country, creating lots of beaches and boats for transport