Friday, September 14, 2007

Scorpions sting twice, but still get squashed

Boo. It would have been great for The Gambia to have got through. But it wasn't to be. The national football team are out of next February's African Cup of Nations in Ghana despite beating Algeria 2:1 at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. But the "Scorpions" have proved they can mix it with the big boys. And if you look at how many smaller African countries never even get it together to enter, or just withdraw because they can't get the players home, or can't afford the travel, then it's clear that The Gambia really does have a future. And 8 points , after all, wasn't too shabby.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Curing AIDS in The Gambia. Not just any peanut. . .

More evidence of Jammeh's Thursday-only AIDS cure.

But the man who hosted last year's African Union summit won't share his herbal secrets with anyone else. Only his Gambians can benefit from his special knowledge - other Africans can whistle for a cure.

It's a sad business, even the Minister of Health is backing Jammeh.

But you can only laugh in despair at the rubber gloves. . .Surely he primes himself with bananas, peanuts and powder before visiting these infectious patients? Hmm, it's a dangerous world though. Wouldn't want to pick anything up while out curing. . .

Thanks to the rather cool for the heavenly peanut pic.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And missing Gambian footballers, too.

The circumstances in this case aren’t sinister, merely farcical. The Gambia could have beaten Cape Verde, to stand a good chance of qualifying for the African Nations Cup in January and February in Ghana – which would be a first ever for the national team, The Scorpions. But their keeper missed one of the few flights from Dakar to Praia. And then they had two players sent off, which presumably will stuff their chances of beating (relatively) mighty Algeria at their next qualifier on 8th September. It would be wonderful if they could crack it and go through to Ghana. It would create a football frenzy for the whole of the 2007/8 tourist season. And heaven knows, Gambians need to focus on the positive these days.

Where are these people?

The Gambia’s “disappeared”

Ousman Jatta – missing
Kanyiba Kanyi – missing
Momodou Lamin Nyassi – missing
Ndongo Mboob – missing
Buba Sanyang – missing
Chief Ebrima Manneh – missing

Where are these people? In one of West Africa’s smallest, most easy-going, most tourist-friendly countries, being arrested (if you’re Gambian) is a dangerous business, as these recent reports indicate.

“Release suffers setback” runs one headline from the local paper, Foroyaa.

Setback? I’ll say. Some technical difficulty Your Honour? Oh, nothing out of the ordinary, we just don’t have the prisoners. In fact we don’t know where they are.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

President running out of diseases to cure

President Doctor Yahya Jammeh has been much in demand in the country's handful of hospitals since the beginning of the year, when he discovered he could cure AIDS with special potions and a personal visit. Most officials are maintaining a dignified silence on the spectacle, though the health minister has endorsed the cure, but as the treatment requires a high level of commitment from the patients, including giving up their expensive anti-retroviral drugs, it can only be a matter of time before nature takes its course and somebody's relative feels they have to speak out. Meanwhile, Jammeh's talents are broadening to include diabetes and asthma.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Plymouth to Banjul by luck

The front-runners in the annual Plymouth Banjul challenge are due into the Gambia any day now. Inaugurated in 2003, this slightly batty amateur trans-Saharan race was inspired by the famous Paris–Dakar Rally. Unlike the Paris-Dakar, which follows a different route every year and invariably causes trouble (for participants lost or injured, and for local bystanders injured or killed) the Plymouth–Banjul follows the same – rather straighter – route across the desert each year. And it ain't about speed. Participants have to follow a few idiosyncratic rules – notably, no car may be worth more £100 at the outset, and all must be auctioned for charity at the end in the Safari Garden Hotel.

Marigold, the 2CV in the picture (© Lucie Mathiszig, top pic) actually made it last year, and can still be seen on the sandy streets of the Gambia (second pic) – it was bought by Geri and Maurice, who run Safari Garden.

Friday, January 12, 2007

From the Rough Guide's introduction to Serrekunda

Serrekunda, the largest town in the country, lies just 3km inland from the resorts. Spending a little time here is an excellent way to get close to the heart of Gambian life; the centre of town gives you a strong flavour of modern, urban West Africa – a choking racket of diesel engines, with music blaring from hundreds of cassette players and radios, and streets lined with half-collapsed wooden trolleys and bricolaged stalls selling a riot of dust-covered imports. The focus of all this is the town’s central market – in fact central Serrekunda is effectively just one big market. It’s a lot of fun to wander round here, and not unsafe, as long as you keep any valuables out of sight.