Gambians are extremely friendly and visitors shouldn't be afraid to accept their hospitality. You'll usually be welcomed with a hand shake and the greeting Nanga def ('How are you?'). Many Gambians are Muslim and their religious customs and beliefs should be respected by guests; however, most understand the English customs and language. You should always remember to use your right hand for giving or receiving food or objects.
Casual wear is suitable, although beachwear should only be worn on the beach or at the poolside. Only the most exclusive dining rooms encourage guests to dress for dinner. Despite the extensive tourism, traditional culture in music, dancing and craftsmanship still flourishes in the many villages on both banks of the River Gambia. Travellers are advised not to photograph Banjul airport or military bases, and to ask the permission of any locals if they want to photograph them and their village.
Gambia is over 85 per cent Muslim, with the rest of the population holding either Christian or animist beliefs.
The first written accounts of the region come from records of Arab traders in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. By the start of the fourteenth century, most of what is today called The Gambia was a tributary to the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached the area by sea in the mid-fifteenth century and began to dominate the lucrative trade.
In 1588, the claimant to the Portuguese throne, Antonio, Prior of Crato, sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambia River to English merchants. During the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth, England and France struggled for supremacy in the region, but the 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia river.
In 1888 Gambia became a separate colonial entity, and in 1889 a crown colony. After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform quickened. Following general elections in 1962, full internal self-government was granted in 1963. The Gambia gained independence on February 18, 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the
1.5 million people live in The Gambia, with English the official language. Despite the wide variety of ethnic groups, there's very little intertribal friction with each group preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka tribe is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, and Serahule. The approximately 3,500 non-African residents include Europeans and families of Lebanese origin.The country is also notable for its religious tolerance, and Gambians officially observe both Muslim and Christian holidays.
More than 63% of the population live in rural villages, although more and more young people come to the capital in search of work and education. But although more and more Gambians are coming into contact with Western habits and values, the emphasis on the extended family as well as traditional forms of dress and celebration remain important parts of everyday life.