Capital | Banjul
Population | 1,782,893 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 11,300 sq km
Official language | English
Holidays | Independence Day, 18 February (1965)
Currency | dalasis (GMD)
Time Zone | UTC+0
Best time to visit | November to April (dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Being surprised by the colonial elegance and unhurried pace of the capital Bamjul. Sunning in Serekunda, where there’s a beach – and a beach bar – for every taste. Bird watching in the Abuko Nature Reserve – home to 250 bird species. Relazing in the southern fishing village of Gunjur, much quieter than neighbouring resorts to the north. Cruising down the Gambia river with an amazing array of birdlife for company. Soaking up the sleepy, crumbling ex-colonial atmosphere of Georgetown.
Read | `Chaff on the Wind’, by Gambian author Ebou Dibba, which follows the fortunes of two rural boys who come to work in the city.
Listen | to the ever popular band Ifang Bondi’s most recent effort `Gis Gis’.
Watch | `Roots’, by Alex Haley, who traced his origins to Jufureh, a village on the lower Gambia River.
Eat | domodah (peanut stew with rice) or benechin (rice baked in a thick sauce of fish and vegetables).
Drink | the refreshing local beer, JulBrew.
In a word | I be naading (hello)
Characteristics | Sunshine, golden beaches, bird watching, riverboats, nightclubs, wildlife reserves.
Surprises | The Gambia’s size, people, language and food make it a popular West Africa getaway. It’s a taboo in the Gambia to whistle after dark; Banjul International Airport’s main runway was partly built by NASA as an emergency runway for space shuttles.