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BITS OF CULTURE - Gambia
 
Languages
Map
Cultural Values
Main Religion & Death Concepts/Rituals
Health Care Values
Diet
Interesting Facts
 

Languages

Official language:
English

Other languages:
Fula
Jola
Mandinka
Wolof

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Map



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Cultural Values
  • In the social heap there are the traditional noble and warrior families, followed by the farmers, traders and persons of caste - blacksmiths, leather workers, wood workers, weavers and griots (GREE-oh). Griots are the lowest of the castes but are highly respected, as they are in charge of passing on the oral traditions and are usually the only ones who can recite a family or village history.
  • Great importance is placed on greetings. Wolof and Mandinka people, for example, greet one another with a ritual that lasts up to half a minute, starting with the traditional Islamic greetings Salaam aleikum and Aleikum asalaam ('Peace be with you,' 'And peace be with you.') This is followed by several more questions about the other's family, home life, village, health, etc.
  • Family plays a central role in Gambian society and it is perceived as a status symbol to support a large family.
  • Gambian families tend to be large and three generations may live together in one household.
  • The father is normally head of the family though the running of the household is left to the wife.
  • It's quite normal in Gambian society to call more than one person 'mother' or 'father', and often people with no apparent blood ties are called 'relatives'.
  • Families tend to educate their sons before their daughters. Women are most often employed in some kind of farming endeavors. Numerous childbirths are the norm.


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Main Religion & Death Concepts/Rituals
 
Health Care Values

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Diet
  • Benechin is a dish of rice cooked in a fish and vegetable sauce, while plasas is meat or fish cooked with vegetable leaves in palm oil and served with fufu (mashed cassava).
  • For the majority of Gambians afternoon lunch is the most important meal of the day.
  • The main staple dish in The Gambia is rice with a choice of stew - made with fish, chicken, beef, lamb or goat - usually cooked with vegetables, spices and sometimes peanut butter.
  • It is the height of bad manners in Gambian society to smell food in front of others. Always give and receive food with your right-hand.
  • When eating with others around a communal bowl always take your shoes off
  • . Only eat within you own imaginary section of the bowl. It is not considered rude to belch when you have finished your meal, as it is a sign that you have enjoyed the food. Keep talking down to a minimum during a meal.

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Interesting Facts
  • Gambia is entirely surrounded by Senegal, except for its short coastline, and is one of Africa's most densely populated countries.
  • Alex Haley, the author of the best-selling book Roots, traced his ancestors back to Gambia. There is some doubt, however, that the griot who remembered his family in oral traditions was being truthful, since oral traditions often don't remember people who left a society or did not make a distinct impact, such as rulers

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