The people of The Gambia and Senegal are beautiful, fascinating, and a living historical archive. You can learn about previous generations just by spending time with the people of today. Many live exactly the same way as their parents did, and as their parents did, and so on. The duality I mentioned on page one also lives through the people. Some are fully immersed in ways of the West (the good and the bad), while others are totally untouched by the modern world. This is evident in their clothing, their homes, their work, and their play.
Walking down the city street or through a marketplace, you will see women dressed in jeans and t-shirts with the most up to date weaves; and others fully covered in the strictest sense of Islamic dress with only eyes showing through veils of black; as well as everything in between. The men are the same, especially the younger generation, wearing their favorite basketball player's jersey and jeans, or dressed from head to toe in the traditional Islamic tunic, trousers and sandals.
Most people I came in contact with at first looked at me as if I were from Mars, probably not sure if I was White or Black, American or European (especially in my first few days before I "tanned" up a bit). But they were usually very friendly and gracious, especially if they were trying to sell me something, or perhaps asking for money. Most of the population of The Gambia is very poor, but they just do what they have to do to live and survive. It was very humbling for me coming form this pampered, ostentatious life where every convenience is but a glance away. But here, these wonderful people live, work and play with barely the most basic of what we consider to be necessities, and yet most seem content. It is as if the saying is true that "you don't miss what you've never had." Senegal is much more modern in many ways, and so are their people. But again, there are many who live by their heritage and traditions of the past.
One thing is for sure, I grew to admire and respect the people very much, especially the women.
See the People Picture Page for a look at some of the faces of Senegal and The Gambia.