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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
In 1455, Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to see the Gambia River; before that, Middle Eastern traders had inhabited the coastal areas and spread Islam throughout the country. By the late 1600s, the French had also established a presence in the area, and the English arrived in the 17th century. Gambia became an English colony in 1843, and although an effort to secede from Britain was made in 1870, Gambia did not become an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations until 1965. The country declared full independence from England in 1970, becoming a republic, with Sir Dawda Jawara as its president.
For years Gambia had one of Africa’s only multiparty and democratic governments. In 1994, though, a military coup led by Captain Yahya Jammeh overthrew the government and banned the existing political parties. Jawara was exiled to Britain, and Jammeh became the country’s ruler. In 2001 the ban on political pa
rties was lifted, Jammeh was elected for a second time, and the exiled Jawara was granted a pardon. Jammeh has been reelected for a total of five times and is still Gambia’s leader.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. Senegal surrounds Gambia in the north, south, and east, and the Atlantic Ocean sits to the west.
2. The currency of Gambia is the dalasi. There are one hundred butut for every dalasi.
3. The government of Gambia operates the only national television station and maintains tight control over news that is broadcast on the radio. Some popular newspapers are the Daily Observer, The Independent, Foroyaa, and The Point.
4. The official language of Gambia is English. Indigenous languages include Wolof, Fula, and Mandinka.
5. Smoking is banned in all public areas, but you can light up in designated smoking zones.