In our search for the next incredible travel experience or, in our case all the trappings of a luxury break, it can be easy to forget the people in a destination.
But in the end, I can forgo beautiful luxury hotels, exciting activities and spectacular sights. It’s the people who make a place for me. If you take time to meet with them, and stop to watch as people go by, you’ll find that they tell the story of the country you’re in. Their lives and their experiences unfolding in every line on their face, each flash of their eyes.
Nowhere have I felt this more starkly than during my time in Gambia. I found myself fascinated by the local people, wanting to know more about them – their likes, loves and hates – their lives.
As we ventured to Serrakunda and Tanji markets in particular, we studied the locals. Asked them questions and learned more about life in Gambia.
As you might expect, Gambia is a poor country. It ranks 165th out of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index. None of these people had the trappings of luxury I enjoyed at hotels in the country. But I knew that merely by visiting and contributing to the local economy I was helping support many people and their immediate and extended families. That is another reason why I was pleased to get out of my hotel and to spend money at local businesses.
I took some of my favourite portraits in Gambia. Here’s a selection.
Trader selling tea.
Woman selling smoked fish.
Children would often be found working in the markets but wherever children gather there is always a sense of optimism and mischievous fun.
Soloman worked a couple of days a week at Tanji, gathering fish that tumbled to the beach from fishing boats. He’d sell the fish to help pay for his days in school.
Market trader modeling clothing she’s made from the fabric she’s selling.
Push-push operator at Serrakunda Market. Forget pushing your own shopping around in a trolley, a push-push will follow you around with a wheelbarrow. Pretty ingenious.
“Mama” befriended me at Serrakunda Market.
Enjoying the hibiscus juice sold at Serrakunda Market.
Craftsman repairing a charm at the market.
Gambian women and men alike confess that women work really hard there. You’ll find women selling produce at markets, working in the fields and more. I had to salute them as combining that work with taking care of their husbands and families seemed a very hard life. But I also loved how hard-working mothers kept their babies close.