History & Geography  
History
Geographical Features
Land and People
The River
Climate

Full Size (145k)

1. HISTORY

The Bank of The River Gambia have been inhabited for many centuries. Hanno, The Carthaginean, referred to Gambia while writing about his voyage to West Africa in 470 B.C. It is known that between the 5th and 8th centuries most of the Senegambian Area came from the Sarahuley ethnic group, and those descendants can be found in The Gambia.
The Ghana Empire which had its capital in present day Mauritania, soon gave way to the Songhais, who latter became Muslims and promoted their new faith zealously. Around the 13th century, however, Mandingoes and Susus' from the Futa Jallon Plateau had established themselves in what is now Mali, and from there controlled the whole of The Gambia Basin. The Gambia was then inhabited mainly by wollofs on the Northern bank and Jolas on the southern bank of the River. When the Mali Empire declined at the end of the 16th century, the Mandingo leaders retired to the Futa Jallon, but continued to have influence over the Casamance (Southern Senegal) and The Gambia until early in the 18th century. Later The Fula invaders penetrated the region. The Ancestors of the Fulas had come from Africa and earlier had founded the famous Emirates of' Northern Nigeria.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were protracted wars between the Islamic Marabouts and the Pagan Soninkis. The British, who already established themselves at Banjul by this time, offered protection to the various chiefs during these conflicts, and through treaties, soon brought The Gambia region under their control.
Before the British, some Portuguese had come to The Gambia following the expeditions promoted by Prince Henry starting in 1455. They had introduced groundnuts, tie main cash crop of today, cotton, and some tropical fruits from Brazil. Their number, however, was never large and the, were soon absorbed by intermarriage.
The British started trading with the Gambians in 1587, and within a few decades had explored the River. They traded as business companies and ruled the area from their fort on James Island until 1765, when the Gambia was made a part of the British colony of SeneGambia with its headquarters at St. Louis. When in 1807, slave trading was abolished, James Island was used to check and stop the illicit traffic in slaves. In 1816, Captain Alexander Grant obtained the sandy bank of Banjul Island by a treaty from the Chief of Kombo and built the planned city of Bathurst, now renamed Banjul. Bathurst already had a civilian population of 700 by 1818, the year that civil government was begun. The Gambia was administered as a crown colony from Sierra Leone between 1821 and 1892, but since then Banjul (Bathurst) has been its capital.
The Gambia became independent in 1965 and five years later adopted a Republican Constitution.

Top of Page


2. GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES

Situated on the Atlantic Coast at The Bulge of West Africa, The Gambia has an area of some 4,000 square miles (10,360 square kilometers) extending eastward from the sea for some 300 miles (480 kilometers) along both banks of The River Gambia. Near the mouth of The River, the country is over 30 miles (48 kilometers) wide but further upriver the width diminishes to 15 miles (24 kilometers). On The Coast, it meets -the Atlantic with impressive sand cliffs and sports miles of unspoiled palm fringed beaches. It borders with the Republic of Senegal on the landward sides.
The country is mostly a low Plateau which decreases in height as it nears the Atlantic Coast. The Plain is broken in a few places by low flat-topped hills and The River Gambia and its tributaries. The area extending from MacCarthy Island, where Georgetown is located, to the Eastern end of the country is enclosed by low Rocky Hills which appear to be volcanic. The soil, especially in the Kuntaur District, is clay along the Banks of The River, but elsewhere are alluvial soils, red, brown and gray sands, some gravel and isolated ironstone rocks. The Coast and River Banks consist largely of Mangrove swamps, and the lower part of the River has steep banks which are covered with tropical forest, Bamboo being characteristic. Away from the River, there is wooded grassland, for the Gambia is in the Savannah Region of West Africa.
The country's narrow width and the large River that drains it have, however, given it more of a parkland look, with large areas covered by a variety of trees such as Mahogany, Rosewood, Oil Palm and Rubber. The Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, in addition to carrying out conservation measures, also does a brisk trade in local woods.

Top of Page


3. LAND AND PEOPLE

Named after The River Gambia which flows through its length from East to West for three hundred miles, The Gambia .a relatively small country in West Africa. Its population of 1.2 million lives within a narrow belt extending from either side of The River Gambia.
The principal ethnic groups arc the Wollofs and the Mandinkas the former living mainly in the capital city of Banjul, while the latter constitute the single largest tribal unit of The Gambia. These ethnic groups are reminiscent of the former Empire of the Wollofs in the Senegambian Region and the famous Mandingo Empire of Mali and Songhai. In addition there are the light-skinned and straight-haired Fulas and the trading Sarahuleys. Another group, the Akus or Creoles, are an important segment of the local elite; there are some Mauritanians, Morrocans and Lebanese, mostly traders and shopkeepers. The Gambians are usually tall, dark and sturdy people with fine features and an easy going charm. Each ethnic group speaks its own language, but English is commonly spoken as well as being the official language of the country. There not only is harmony between the different groups, but a fusion is taking place by cultural interaction and intermarriage, to an extent that the Gambia can be called a melting pot of West African ethnic groups where a modern composite African is being evolved.
The population is predominantly Muslim with more than 90% following Islam. The remaining 10% are mostly Christians of different denominations including Anglicans, Methodists, and Roman Catholics. Most of the people are strict in their Religious practices and the devout Muslims can be seen praying not only in Mosques but also in other public places at all prayer times of the day. There is, however, no fanaticism and amity prevails between religious and ethnic groups.

Top of Page


4. The River

A major attraction for the visitor to The Gambia, this great West African River rises in the Futa Jallon highlands nearly a thousand river miles away in the Republic of Guinea. It crosses Eastern Senegal before entering Gambian territory some 300 miles (480 Kilometers) inland. In The Gambia, The River is the dominating features and provides both a useful means of transportation and irrigation as well as a rich ground for fishing, boating and sailing.
The River Gambia is several miles wide at its mouth near Cape St. Mary and has a bar with a depth of 27 feet (8. 1 Meters) . It narrows to three miles (4.8 Kilometers) at Banjul where the ferry to Barra operates. Ocean-going vessels up to about 3,000 gross registered (241 Kilometers) to Kuntaur. The River is also navigable to steamers for 140 miles (225 Kilometers) farther upstream.
For the first 80 Miles (129 kilometers) inland from Banjul, The River Gambia is fringed with mangrove-covered banks, which give way to red ironstone cliffs crowned with a tangle of green vegetation. Farther up River, the ironstone cliffs give way to banks of waving grass and parklands. The whole River and the numerous creeks (locally known as 'Bolons') which join it, are fascinating to the bird lover and the student of nature: Hippopotami, Crocodiles and Dog-faced baboons are often seen.
In the past, The River's fame lay in the fact that, for sailing vessels, it was navigable at least as far as the country's eastern boundary; It is one of the finest waterways in West Africa. More recently, it has become the target for government development plans including an extension to the Port of Banjul. Fisheries development, Hydrological Surveys, a rice development project and even a feasibility survey for a bridge-barrage building program at the Trans-Gambia Ferry crossing near Farafenni. The Bridge-Barrage Project is to be a joint venture by the Senegalese and Gambian Governments.
In addition to Ferries, ships and cutters loaded with groundnuts, the country's main export crop, can be seen plying up and down the River, and dugout canoes used by fishermen are also a common sight, Their existence-,. however, does not diminish the serene, tranquil beauty of the Great River flowing majestically westward into the Atlantic Ocean. Like there forerunners, the men-of-war and the slave ships which fought battles and went this way in years, these river craft only add to the Gambia's colourful beauty.

Top of Page


5 CLIMATE

The Gambia is generally recognized as having perhaps the most agreeable climate in West Africa. The weather is subtropical with distinct dry (7 Months) and Rainy seasons.
There is a dry wind called the Harmattan which blows during the dry season. The Harmattan Sahara winds give the Gambia a uniquely pleasant winter, completely rainless and blessed with daily sunshine. From November to May, the temperature varies between 70oF (21oC) and 80oF (27oC) and the relative humidity stays between 30% and 60%. Summer temperatures range between 80oF (27oC) and 90oF (32oC) and the relative humidity is high. The rains begin in June and continue to October, conceding with the warmer weather. Inland, the cool season is shorter, and by the day high temperatures are encountered between March and June. Generally, there is considerable cooling off in the evening. Rainfall in most parts of the country does not exceed 40 inches (1,016 Millimeters) and sunny periods occur on most days even in the rainy season.

Top of Page
 

History
Geographical Features
Land and People
The River
Climate

 
[ Home lAbout us|History & geography |Investment |Freeport|Trade Help Desk|Natural resourcesl Energy Electricity| Contact|Employment |Links]

gambia-official@gambia-expansion.com