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My Hometown: Coastal Road, The Gambia, offers diversity

The market in Coastal Road, The Gambia. (Mariama Barry/YJI)

Coastal Road, THE GAMBIA – Coastal Road is a town situated South of Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia, Western Africa. It runs from the greater Banjul area down to the villages of Kololi, Bijilo, Brufut, Tanji and Sanyang; all located in the western part of the country.

This is my hometown. Let’s explore it together.

A bank in Coastal Road, The Gambia. (Mariama Barry/YJI)

The Banjul International Airport, the only airport in the country, is a short distance away.

The bituminized highway, which runs from the Atlantic Strip (112km including ancillary routes) cost 168 million dalasi, our local currency – nearly $3.5 million U.S. dollars. Coastal Road has a population of about 100,000 inhabitants and a youthful population.

My hometown is diverse in culture and tradition, and it is home to eight ethnic groups. The Mandinka ethnic group is the largest while the Aku or Creole tribe, is the smallest.

Despite the differences in ethnicity, culture and tradition, all the ethnic groups exist in peace and organize events together.

Women have clubs, locally known in the Wolof language as “compins.” Women contribute money to these compins and three-quarters of the funds goes back to the community. The money helps in drilling a borehole-water-pumping-system, building or renovating the market area, a community clean up commonly known as “Set-Setal” and other things.

First, let’s make a visit to our market. The beautiful market is among the places I love most in Coastal Road. The market is not so big and it is in the central part of the town.

In the market, people sell different types of commodities and there are people from many walks of life. You can buy food, clothing, furniture, utensils, electrical appliances and more. There are also tailoring shops that make African clothes, carpenters, internet cafes, bookshops, local restaurants, fashion shops, beauty salons, mini markets and many other shops.

With all these commodities, shops and services provided by the Coastal

A stall at the market. (Mariama Barry/YJI)

Road Market, it is not surprising that so many people named it among the best markets in the country. The prices are also very affordable.

One of the vendors told me that the flexibility of buying and selling in the market helps keep prices low and enables sellers to make ends meet.

The Coastal Road area is home to almost 50 schools, ranging from the nursery Level to college. Most of these schools provide a good quality education. They are owned by the government and are referred to as public schools. The students perform tremendously in these schools and often pass exams with flying colors.

There is no big hospital in Coastal Road. We only have clinics and pharmacies with good qualified doctors and nurses. These medical centers are in good locations and the staff who works there keeps them clean and tidy for a healthy environment.

Trust Bank Limited has a branch located at the right-hand side of the market. It benefits the community a lot. People can save their money safely without fear. We also have money-transfer banks, like Western Union and others. Their presence helps people easily and quickly send and receive money.

There is also a police station located near the market and adjacent to the bank. They help in protecting people from crimes like robbery and rape or car accidents and other issues. Their presence in the community is very important.

We have two radio stations in the area, Taranga 97.5 FM and DHK FM. They report on the latest happenings in the country and the world at large. They also have different entertainment shows to offer listeners. They play all types of music genres, matching the diversity of the Gambian population, but most of them play local music.

The community is a home to a very big farm called the “Indian Garden.” It is owned and run by Indians. Planting and harvesting of rice, maize and corns take place throughout the year. Many people – mostly youth – are employed to work in this garden. It is their source of income. Three quarters of the produce from this garden is exported to other countries, which means it is a source of revenue for the government and also brings income to the owners and workers.

Music and dance – traditionally tied to village activities – are something I like a lot about my hometown. Every year we celebrate and organize so many events. When there is not much work at the farms, people organize traditional dance and ‘Zimba,’ a Wolof Masquerade dance. These types of activities bring everyone to celebrate together.

Traditional music and dance are performed during naming, wedding and circumcision ceremonies.

An internet cafe in Coastal Road, The Gambia. (Mariama Barry/YJI)

Coastal Road like other regions has enthusiastic football players. The regional team is made of talented young football players who represent the community. There are fields and open spaces that football teams can use.

We also have a big cinema, where people go to watch football matches and movies. Some other youth swim, or play basketball, volleyball and cricket.

The beach is not far from the town. People usually go there on Sundays for swimming, or organize picnics, birthday celebrations and other fun activities.

Thanks for joining me in exploring my beautiful hometown. All these activities, services and cultural traditions from all of the ethnic groups present here, our environment and most importantly, the inhabitants make Coastal Road a wonderful place for me.  We have promising youngsters, and religious, hardworking people.

If you visit, the lovely smiles of the people will brighten your day.  I always wonder why people often smile, even when their situations pose challenges. But remember, The Gambia is the Smiling Coast of West Africa and my hometown is the smiling coast of The Gambia.

Our cultural diversity is excellent and my hometown has enough to make you smile.

Mariama Barry is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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