dress code for Gambia is very important so you should
at least take some tips below regarding acceptable types of
clothing particularly when out in public.
lightweight woollen jumpers or a jacket for the cool evenings
during the months
of November to March. Although dress in the beach
hotels is very
informal, ladies should avoid wearing bikinis or going out
topless outside the grounds of the hotels or
dress code is advised in all public places and you should
preferably at least wear a sarong or other wrap that comes down
to your knees and cover your top half at least up to the elbows
though there is no need to cover you head. In the hotels'
you can wear a bikini as this is acceptable but not out and
about in public. Gambia is predominantly a
interesting point of note is
that whereas European men find the
exposure of the female breasts provocative it is much less so in
Gambia. That doesn't mean to say women walk around topless
though it is not uncommon to see a topless woman working
uncovered in a village setting for example. Therefore topless
sunbathing isn't seen as such a big deal. Thighs however, are
provocative to Gambian males so do cover down to you knees at
least when in public.
As an overseas tourist, its best to be more conservative than
you would at home in the summer time.
Men should refrain from walking the streets bare-chested,
as men going around half-naked are mostly thought mentally
disturbed. As general rule for females, the more you reveal,
the more (unwanted) attention you'll receive; it's best to
wear skirts or Capri / pants as a second option that extend
to the knee or below, except when exercising or at the beach.
Above the waist, use conservative judgment, and observe the
how Gambian women wear Western clothing. For example it is
rare to see Gambians in spaghetti straps.
Traditional Dress Code:
The traditional kind of
clothing for Gambian women and men tends to be long and free
flowing clothes. For women they tend to wear clothes down to
their feet as well as up to their wrists. This is called a
grandmuba which comes with an under garment called a malan
which is a couple of metres of cloth which is wrapped around the
waist as an underskirt.
Such traditional apparel tends to come in a multitude of vivid
waxes and designs. The essential point is that such clothing
should cover most parts of your body except for the hands
and feet. Ladies should cover their heads with a headdress
called a musorr or Tiko. African women in the homes, doing
chores or cooking, often wear
a combination of Western and Africa styles, with T-shirts
or other blouse plus a wrapper.
When out in public, women are more often seen in traditional
garb (blouse and skirt from often brightly coloured fabric,
plus head wraps) than in Western wear, though many businesswomen
will wear Western-style dresses with an African flare. As
with men, young
women and girls are seen in American-style clothing more often
than the older ladies do. For special occasions, such as weddings
or naming ceremonies,
both men and women usually abandon the plain cotton and opt
for African clothing made from beautifully coloured and embroidered
fabric, sometimes interwoven with strands of glimmering threads.
Keeping in line with the Muslim faith many men tend to wear the
(pronounced Haftan) which is worn
in a very similar way to the grandmuba. It is a full-dress,
ankle-length, long-sleeve clothing which is also known as the
fataro, jalabe or shabado. A variation of this is the 3 piece
suit called nyeti abdu which comes with trousers called a chaya
or the waramba. Such dress for men is very often embroidered in
elaborate gold coloured thread on the chest area and sometimes
the end of the sleeves and back area. This male attire is topped
off with a skull cap which is also usually embroidered in
elaborate designs along the rim.
African men are most often seen in Western-style clothing,
especially the younger crowd, but there are some that always
wear African style clothing of pants with matching, lengthy
top, called a Haftan. Many males wear a Haftan or waramba
(a more loose-fitting robe) on Fridays, dressing up for the
customary visit to the mosque. One of the most notable things
about men’s fashion is the colour of the clothing. While few
American males would feel comfortable in magenta or baby violet,
clothing for men is perfectly acceptable in any colour in
The Gambia, pastels and all shades of pink not withstanding.
Before such clothing can be worn it is usually waxed and beaten
with wooden mallets to create a stiff shiny cloth.
Schoolchildren wear uniforms to classes, whether they receive
a private or public education—girls in dresses and boys in
shirt and shorts, both with the name of their school featured
on a breast pocket.
come in a large variety of styles and patterns and is akin
to a work of art. The styles come by the names jerreh, duni-bally,
armandija, berti and so on. Traditional hairstyles of the
Jola tend to include beads and other
jewellery tied into the hair itself. Hair
extensions are de rigueur for most young women who will
often be seen without any headdress. Rasta and straight hair
extensions are the most popular among women and can be found
for sale in cosmetic
shops, by street hawkers and in some tailor's