Banjul, officially the City of Banjul (former name Bathurst
until 1973), is the capital of the Republic of The Gambia,
in West Africa, as well as the administrative centre
of the country and the seat of government. The port
city has a population
of about 31,000
and is divided into 3 districts. Its land area is 12
sq km (4.6 sq. mi), and it is located on Saint Mary's
Island, at the southern part of the Gambia
River ria estuary. The flat island was leased by
the British colonial government, from the King of Kombo,
for 103 iron bars per annum in 1816, and the Bathurst
settlement was named after the Secretary of State for
the British Colonies, Lord Henry Bathurst.
Banjul capital is not usually the first stop for most
visitors on flights to The Gambia; after landing at
Yundum Airport, most tourists go straight to the beach
along the Atlantic coast, which are mostly in Bijilo,
Brufut, Kololi, Kotu and Kerr Sering. There is however
the beach based, 4 star, Atlantic Hotel.
There are three routes into the capital. If you are
travelling by road from southern Gambia, the coastal
or from the airport past Serrekunda, you take the Banjul-Serrekunda
Highway, driving past thick banks of mangroves in the
Tanbi Wetland Complex to your right, on the way to Oyster
which separates the mainland from the island, and is
traversed by Denton
Bridge. After the bridge, the road traces the west
coastline of St. Mary's Island, until forking at Independence
Drive, with Arch 22 in front of you, Wallace Cole Road
to your right, Marina Parade to your left. The second
route is to detour just before the city by turning right
into Bund Road, this takes you to the ports area.
The third route is from the north bank of the Gambia
River or northern Senegal, through the Amdalai / Karang
border crossing; you go by road to the ferry terminal
(Niumi District) on the north bank of the Gambia River,
from which a scheduled ferry service takes you across
the river to the terminal on Liberation Avenue in city's
southern commercial district. Outside the terminal turn
right to go towards the Royal
Albert Market and the Atlantic Hotel; turn left and
follow the Kankujereh Road north west to connect with
the highway heading back towards Serrekunda.
its distinctive appearance, The Gambia's capital city
can't be thought of as everyone's idea of the idyllic
holiday resort. Banjul has only one tourist-class hotel,
the Atlantic Hotel. There are also a batch of 1 or 2
and guest houses in the centre of town, serving mostly
travelling Africans. The best of these are a little
tatty, while the worst often charge an hourly rate.
However, even some of these are worth checking out for
a budget-priced experience.
commercial centre is around the docks at the city's
east end. Despite the port's small size it is a critical
entryway for imports as well as exports, and the roads
near the waterfront are often jammed with trucks and
lorries waiting to load newly arrived consignments such
as sugar, rice and cooking oil as they are offloaded
from container ships. Some merchandise are destined
for stores on Liberation and Ecowas Avenue as well as
Albert Market, others get transported inland and
to other countries in West Africa via entrepot.
The area just inland from the port
is Banjul's main shopping
sector. You won't find shopping malls, large supermarkets
or even shops with glass window displays as the business
of buying and selling is carried out in a rather casual
way on the pavements, in the main market, or in simply
laid out shops jammed together along the ground floors
of former colonial trading houses and more modern buildings.
You will see numerous street hawkers, many of them from
Senegal and Guinea, peddling sunglasses, counterfeit
CDs, car steering wheel covers, auto air fresheners
and other small items.
best time to go sightseeing on foot to enjoy the architecture
is after 5pm or on Saturdays and Sundays, when many
businesses have closed for the day and private sector
workers depart for the Kombos. Some of the oldest houses
you might see are made of kirinting - bamboo weave houses
covered in plaster and often painted with whitewash.
These were often the homes of poorer African immigrants
on Bathurst island constructed in the early part of
the 19th century. Many were still built into the 20th
century and can be found along Mam Mberry Njie Street,
Essa Faal Street, McDonnel Street and James Senegal
St. From around the 1830s came the next development
in house style with the arrival of Christian Aku
settlers from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to the island
who introduced sturdier, Krio style wooden houses.
Towards the end of the 19th century the French, Portuguese and
British merchants built trading houses typically with
wrought-iron colonnades at ground level and roofed balconies
on the first floor that can still be seen along ECOWAS
Avenue, Rene Blaine Street and Liberation Avenue.
On the north of the town is the Royal Victoria Teaching
Hospital (RVTH), government ministries
in the Quadrangle, law courts on Independence Drive
and the new parliament building just past the Arch 22
on the highway leading out of the entrance to the capital.
There are also a number of mosques in the capital. The
first mosque was built in the 19th century called the
Independence Drive Mosque, renamed the Masjid Abu Bakar
Saddiq in 2014. Then there is the King Fahad Mosque,
constructed in 1988 and named after Saudi Arabian King.
It dominates the skyline at the north of the city and
is one of Banjul's most recognisable landmarks.
Tourist Attractions & Things
often scorching, compact and teeming with mosquitoes
in summer, it's not an instantly appealing place. Its
concreted streets seem to exude pulses of oppressive
heat during the humid rainy season, with some smaller
roads suffering occasional floods. During the winter
season it's a lot cooler and dryer; this is the time
when most tourist visitors arrive with their tour operators.
The city however, is too compact to provide many of
the expected amenities and diversions of a capital,
and evening life is virtually unknown. The vast majority
of workers leave the city after working hours.
• Arch 22
you approach the end of the main highway leading into
Banjul you will see to your right the rather futuristic
looking parliament building. Then straight ahead is
a roundabout with a statue of a soldier in the centre
holding a small child, and above and behind is the Arch
22, which stands astride at the entrance to Independence
Drive. Standing high at 35m it is a huge, cream-coloured,
free-standing monument, built to commemorate the 22
July, 1994 bloodless coup when a young army officer,
took control of the country by ousting President Jawara.
It offers great views over the city, coastal areas,
the river and the mangroves of the Tanbi Wetland Complex.
The skyline of Banjul is also graced by the twin minarets
of the King Fahad Mosque and the State House, built
by the Portuguese. On the top floor is a small museum
housing ethnographic Gambian artifacts such a traditional
textiles, agricultural tools and weapons such as bamboo
bows and arrows and wooden swords.
• Albert Market
of the biggest tourists attractions in Banjul is the
Albert Market; it is a relaxed and oddly organised
version of the everything-under-the-Sun style of market
ubiquitous throughout West Africa. It is a maze of stalls
and shops adequately spaced by paved walkways. Behind
the main front façade, arcade, is two floors of numbered
and roller-shuttered shops. On the top floor tailors
work in booths side by side. In the first entrance alley
you walk past the gauntlet of hawkers and ghetto blasters
on both sides, giving you stereo music from different
food stalls offer typical West African cooking ingredients
such as yellow, orange and deep red chili peppers, tamarind,
Okra (ladies fingers), bitter tomatoes, smoked catfish,
very pungent, chopped and dried sea snails, dark palm
oil, peanut past, a salted and dried pungent fish called
'gaija'. There are also seasonal fruits on display such
as oranges, lemons, mangos, papaya and watermelons as
well as imported apples and grapes. Groceries are sold
in variable quantities, from rice by the cup full to
cooking oil in 20 litre plastic bottle containers.
There are also stalls offering beauty products like
shea butter, lipstick, hair-extensions, hand-made and
imported soap, and household items of every kind such
as buckets, cups, fans, flip-flops, sunglasses, perfumes,
incense, fulano powder, traditional medicines, clocks,
are some good bargains to be had in clothing from the
Far East, and fabrics such as wax prints, cottons and
designed damask in vibrant colours. There is also a
brisk trade in second-hand garments which arrive in
Gambia mostly from Europe. You can find a number of
fetish stalls, selling goat horns, loose cowrie shells,
African trade beads, kola nuts
and the aptly named bitter kola and much more.
As you go deeper into the market you will find the Banjul
Market (bengdula). There is a varied selection of
batiks, leather goods, cheap and valuable jewellery
such as bangles, silver necklaces and bracelets, djembe
drums, etc. There are also a few stalls selling antiques
such as wooden masks from the West Africa region.
• Commercial Area
Market spills out into the neighbouring road called
Liberation Avenue and adjacent roads, where stores and
stalls sell mostly cheaper, low quality clothing and
footwear, plus a potpourri of household items
and counterfeit CDs. There are also fabric importers
who also distribute to the public on a retail basis,
and offer an excellent range of imported fabrics in
African and overseas designs. You can find many goods
often sold at higher prices in Europe a lot cheaper
in and around the market - as for quality the old doctrine
of caveat emptor applies. Remember that as a general
rule you need to try to haggle
prices down by 30% to 40% lower than the initial asking
price - 1/3 reduction is a good, general rule to remember.
If you can't agree on a price then walk away, many will
call you back, and that is a sign they are prepared
to go lower, even if they don't say so immediately.
A worthwhile place to visit is the shop at the St.
Joseph's Adult Education and Skills Centre. Based
inside a colonial Portuguese building, the centre has
provided skills training to disadvantaged women aged
between 16 - 26 for over two decades. Here you can buy
handmade clothes, knitted items, embroidered purses
or take a tour of the of sewing, crafts and tie-dye
classes. It is open weekdays in the mornings to early
afternoons except for Friday when they close at mid-day.
(Tel no: +220 4228836, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Around the vicinity are banks and bureau de change,
where you can change your foreign currency or your travellers'
cheques, as well as some small but clean restaurants.
• Gambia National
is in Banjul's northern sector on Independence Drive
and was officially opened on 18th February, 1985. Within
the pleasant front garden of tamarisk and palm there
is a drinks stand and shaded seating area as well as
toilets, administrative buildings and stores. The building
used to house the Bathurst Club house consisting of
European members only.
Even though it is quite small, cramped, and dimly lit,
it contains some interesting, though sometimes not easy
to find, artifacts - some a bit dog-eared, yearning
for restoration. As you are about to enter the main
hall you will see a Kankurang
mask 'guarding' the door. Inside the display hall
you will find numbered exhibits in a semblance
of a circuit, from the late 19th and 20th centuries.
You can find colonial era written and printed ephemera,
including a passenger ticket from Bathurst to Liverpool
on board the Elder Dempster Line's 'MV Apapa' - a so
called a banana boat, bananas being one of the chief
exports of the Gold Coast at the time. There is also
a gathering of Oku marabout (Yoruba) pieces such as
a bridal basket, waist beads called 'bin bin', an engagement
calabash gourd, which would hold the bride's kola nuts,
dowry and other oddments.
museum also collects books, colonial maps, traditional
music string instruments, cooking utensils such as large
wooden mortars and pestles, large calabash gourds, Neolithic
pottery, masks, the bau / worro (holed board game),
handicrafts, large paper model boats called fanals,
prehistoric tools, historical documents and photographs
relating to the material culture of The Gambia. In some
of the dimly lit corners, you'll see, among the crumbling
ethnographic pieces, revealing old maps, papers and
information about local migrations and conflicts in
the Senegambia region, a few captivating pictures of
kora players called jali, as well as masked dance ceremonies
from an earlier era. Don't miss the life-sized Kankurang
- a potent spirit incarnate, covered in baobab bark
(from whom women, children and the uncircumcised must
(Tel no: 4226244, Email: email@example.com)
you are keen on bird
watching then head toward the most southerly road
in the Banjul capital called the Kankujereh Road
(Bund Rd.) which passes through bird rich saltwater
wetland habitats with numerous bird species. It goes
past the Gambia River estuary mudflats to your
left with its rusting, mud sunken ships which are home
to cormorants and pelicans roosts. At low tide, the
mudflats are used as feeding grounds by striated herons,
African spoonbills, gulls, waders and terns. To
your right is some re-claimed land followed by the Tanbi
Wetland Complex of mangroves to your right and left.
Here you might spot black headed plover, yellow billed
storks, little grebe, or the Senegal thick-knee. The
best time to go is when there is light traffic such
as after 11 am up to 5pm, but Fridays after 3pm and
weekends are the best times to visit. Note: much of
the area is strewn with scarp metal so sturdy boots
and a stick might be useful.
• Sports Fishing
could also go back towards the Denton
Bridge and hire a local pirogue (long canoes - some
with an outboard motor) which can take you out on the
quiet waterways of Oyster Creek, which are rich
fishing grounds for keen
anglers. The dense mangroves are particularly interesting
and home to around 70 species of fish and other wildlife
such as tilapia, mullets, Atlantic mudskippers, shrimps,
crabs and mangrove oysters. The fish fauna are of pelagic
or demersal species in the fry, juvenile or sub-adult
stages. You can also pick up a larger, more professional
boat to take you up river or for some blue ocean sports
has an acute dearth of restaurants,
especially in the evenings, but there is still some
good quality basic food served from local diners and
fast food establishments during the day. The Ali
Baba Snack Bar serves European and Lebanese snacks,
dishes, cold drinks, and freshly squeezed fruit juices.
It's ideally located in the commercial district and
close to the market and shops. On the same road is the
of Shawarma Cafe which has similar Middle Eastern
cuisine plus dishes like fish & chips. If you feel
the need to sit at a beach bar and restaurant facing
the Atlantic ocean then try Nefertiti
Beach Bar, just off the entrance of Marina Parade,
near the Arch 22. It is at the end of the road leading
past the registrar of companies and near the Atlantic
Hotel; it is Lonely Planet's top choice among the places
There is virtually nothing in the capital city by way
of night clubs
as most people have left the town by 7pm, not to return
until the next working day. The only night spot worth
visiting for tourists is at the Atlantic Hotel, which
is elegant, air conditioned, and opens till late. The
people who do hang out in the evening are usually Gambians
and foreigners, in front of their accommodation, drinking
Attaya or visiting friends nearby, otherwise the streets
are virtually empty. The only sounds you'll hear in
the early evening are the various, distant calls of
the muezzin, from minaret loudspeakers.
• Other Attractions
places to see in Banjul are the War Memorial &
Fountain, near MacCarthy Square, erected to commemorate
the coronation of Britain's King George VI in 1937.
You can also visit MacCarthy Square which is
surrounded by a colonial atmosphere, with eye-catching
19th-century architecture. It is used for public events
such as Independence Day ceremonies, open concerts and
cricket. There is also a children's playground with
a modern play area which has colourful slides, swings,
rocking horses and a small course.
Health & Safety:
Though a capital, Banjul has a typically relaxed small-town
ambiance. If you have business to get on with, whatever
you need to accomplish here can usually be done in relative
safety - and at less than three square kilometres, the
town can easily be crossed by foot. The police
security presence, after the bridge crossing, is low-key.
It's a town with individuals always on the move, so
take the same safety
precautions as in any urban area during the evenings.
There is also a fire station in town.
get to the Banjul capital from the resorts takes about
20 minutes by car from the main resorts
of Kololi and Kotu. The cost of a typical taxi fare
for such a trip can vary between the cheaper yellow
taxis and the more expensive green taxis.
When leaving the city there are two taxi
ranks available: one is on the Independence Drive opposite
the Gambia National Museum - if you want to go to Bakau,
and the other is on the Mosque Road, with yellow cabs
and assorted mini-vans going to Serrekunda (Westfield
Junction) and Brikama Town.
If you want more exclusive travel then ask for a 'Town
Trip' to your destination. There are costlier green
taxis outside the Atlantic Hotel. Having said all this
you can pick up a cab anywhere, at any time, assuming
they are empty and you wish to travel alone.
If you are going north across the Gambia River you can
take the ferry
service to Barra (7am to 11pm - tel no: 422 8205).
• Travel update:
As at 17th July, 2017, the Bund Road (Kankujereh) has
been closed for a number of years now and is still undergoing
resurfacing / renovation 'works'. Sting Corner road
from Bakau is now open.
[Geographical coordinates: 13°27′11″N 16°34′39″W
/ St. Mary's Island Division]