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Dress Code in Gambia

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Introduction:
The 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.

Take along 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 beaches.

Tourist Advice:
A modest 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' resorts and beaches you can wear a bikini as this is acceptable but not out and about in public. Gambia is predominantly a Muslim country.

One 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:
Women in traditional dressThe 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 colours, 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, Headdressyoung 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 Kaftan (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.

Hair
Hairstyles 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 shops.




 
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