20+ Interesting Facts About the Gambia

  1. The Gambia is a small country in western Africa, surrounded by Senegal from three sides. The Atlantic Ocean is present on its western side.
  2. The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa. The width of this narrow country is between 15 and 30 miles (25 to 50 km), while its total area is 11,300 km2.
  3. The Gambia has the lowest average elevation (34 m) in Africa and the sixth-lowest in the world. The highest point in this flat country is 63 m high. (Source)
  4. The Gambia is one of the two countries (besides the Bahamas) whose official name begins with a definite article “The.”  The Portuguese initially named this area “The Gambia” for its relation to “the Gambia River.” In 1964, the British agreed to continue this name at the request of the then-Gambian prime minister to avoid similarity with its neighboring country, Zambia. (Source)
  5. A famous Crocodile Pool in the Gambia contains over 100 crocodiles that do not harm people. Many people consider that this 1600-year-old place is sacred. Therefore, infertile women, parents, businessmen, and politicians visit this place to pray. It is also an attraction for foreign visitors. (Source)
  6. The Gambia is commonly known as “the Smiling Coast,” primarily due to the friendly nature of its inhabitants. However, another reason for this nickname is the shape of the country on the map. It appears like a smiling face as the Gambia cuts through the middle of Senegal.
  7. Around 95% of the inhabitants of the Gambia are Muslims. Most of these are adherents of Sunni Islam who follow the Maliki School of jurisprudence.
  8. Islamic Online University is a private distance education university with around 480,000 students from across the globe. The headquarters of this university is in the Gambia.
    Satellite image of Gambia river and the Gambia
    Gambia river passes through the center of the Gambia

  9. The name of this African country is due to its relation with the Gambia River. This river passes almost through the center of the country.
  10. The Gambia initially got its individual place during Portuguese control of this area in the 15th Century. The Gambia River was a vital route for the slave trade. Later, the British Empire captured this area in 1765. Britain and France demarcated the current boundaries of Gambia during the 19th Century.
  11. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to enter the Gambia in 1455. Later in the 1600s, they and other colonial powers (Spanish and English) became involved in the Atlantic slave trade through the Gambia River and transported nearly 5,000 slaves per year during the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Mandinka of Mali were the chief beneficiaries of this slave trade. However, the English outlawed and forcefully stopped the slave trade in 1808. This ban and other British actions weakened the rich animist Mandinka and allowed the poor Muslim Mandinka to overpower them. It resulted in the dominance of Muslims in the Gambia and its neighboring areas. (Source)
  12. The voting system in the Gambia is unique due to the use of marble instead of paper ballots. The British introduced this system in 1965 due to a low literacy rate in the country. The Gambia conducted all its elections through marbles, including the latest election in 2021. Despite its simplicity, this voting system has proved effective and has not yet faced severe allegations of fraud. (Source)
  13. In 1965, this colony gained independence from Britain. In 1970, the country officially became the Republic of The Gambia.
  14. Since its independence, the Gambia has seen just three rulers: Dawda Jawara (a liberation leader who ruled from 1965 to 1994), Yahya Jammeh (a military leader who gained power through a coup and ruled from 1994 to 2017), and Adama Barrow (who won December 2016 elections).
  15. A communist party, supported by elements of the Gambian paramilitary, attempted a coup in the Gambia in 1981. The Gambia managed to foil this attempt with assistance from Senegal. The 1981 Gambian coup attempt lasted for around a week and resulted in several casualties.
  16. The Gambia reached an agreement with Senegal in 1981, and the two countries merged to form the Senegambia Confederation in 1982. However, this limited confederation only lasted until 1989 due to the Gambian concerns about its autonomy.
  17. During the confederacy, the Gambia established its military in 1985. The military staged a successful coup in 1994, and an officer, Yahya Jammeh, became head of the ruling council. He later resigned from the military and became an elected president in 1996.
  18. The Gambia joined the Commonwealth in 1965 after independence. But in 2013, the country left this organization and vowed never to return to the neo-colonial institution. However, it rejoined the Commonwealth in 2018 after the regime change.
  19. In 2019, the Gambia filed a case in the ICJ (International Court of Justice) against Myanmar for ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Five European countries and Canada also joined this case in 2022.
  20. The Gambia has a diverse ethnic composition. The largest ethnicity is Mandinka, while the remaining population belongs to Fulani, Wolof, and other ethnicities.
  21. English is the official language of the Gambia due to its past as a British colony. However, most of the people speak local languages in their everyday life.
  22. The Gambia has two properties (both cultural) in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites represent the slave trade and its abolition in the country. It also shares the 1,500-year-old Stone Circles of Senegambia (a concentration of over 1,000 monuments) with Senegal.
  23. Lucy, a famous female chimpanzee, was raised as a human child for an experiment on the difference between nature and nurture. However, its owners decided to take it to Africa, where she could live a natural life. They chose the Gambia for this purpose and lived there for several years. (Source)

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