Busy African market
Africa,  Gambia,  Street photography,  Travel galleries

Gallery: a morning at Serekunda Market

Weaving his way expertly between the throngs of sellers and buyers, our driver and new friend Habib led us deep into the heart of the market. The place was so packed it was hard to make progress at times, especially with the occasional car or bush taxi trying to squeeze through the crowds, and the many porters with their wheelbarrows shouting at everyone to make way.

Who doesn’t love a good market? A market can tell you so much about a country: its cuisine, its people, its way of life. It’s the perfect location for a spot of street photography too. And in The Gambia, Serekunda Market is the place to go. It is the largest in the country and a wonderful, if sometimes overwhelming, insight into local life away from the beach resorts.

Busy African market
Serekunda Market

We were very pleased to have Habib’s company here, as I’m not at all sure we would have found our way around this maze of lanes on our own, and we would certainly have attracted more attention, more hassle, and found it harder to take photos. As it was, most people were comfortable with our presence and our cameras and the few that complained, we stopped photographing.

The market takes place all day and every day. Few Gambian homes have freezers, and with frequent power cuts the fridge cannot be relied on to keep food fresh, so the women (and it is still always the women) shop daily for fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, fish etc.

Among the huge variety of goods on sale we saw:

~ chillies of all shapes and sizes

~ peppers – red, green, orange and yellow

~ tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes

~ yams, cassava and sweet potatoes

~ fruits of all kinds, with oranges the most common

~ palm oil in shades of yellow, orange and brown

~ rice, corn and other grains

~ fish both smoked and fresh

~ red sorrel flowers for making tea or wonjo juice

~ leafy green herbs

~ aluminium cooking pots, small, large and huge

~ second-hand clothes (including underwear and shoes)

~ colourful fabrics hung up and sold by the metre

~ batteries and small electrical goods

~ and so much more!

Even more than seeing all the goods on display, I was struck by the colourful fabrics of the women’s clothes. In fact, I think it was here that I first fell in love with African textile designs!

There are of course many other markets in The Gambia but as the biggest and liveliest Serekunda is especially worth a visit. And while you have to be prepared for a degree of chaos and be comfortable in crowds, I found it a memorable experience and a fantastic glimpse of daily life here.

I visited The Gambia in 2014

17 Comments

  • katieshevlin62gmailcom

    Another great opening paragraph Sarah. I love markets when travelling for many of the same reasons. Enjoyed virtually visiting this African market with you. I’ watched a couple of African films on Netflix at the weekend and your pictures were straight out of it! The atmosphere must have been amazing.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      You’re right about the atmosphere Katie 🙂 It was a bit manic and I was glad we were with a local as with him we would almost certainly got lost and also found it harder to take photos – the people seemed to accept us more when they saw who we were with 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I know – they get it ALMOST right so often! In Stone Town (Zanzibar) we saw a man wearing a Newcastle United top. That’s our team so we know they should be black and white stripes, but his were red and white!!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Suzanne 🙂 In some ways visiting The Gambia can be challenging – you see a lot of poverty, and the local hustlers, called Bum Boys, can be a real pain. But it’s full of life and colour, and the bird life in particular is wonderful. I’d love to go back some day!

      • Suzanne

        I think the poverty and the vulnerability of people would get to me and override the joy of being there. A safari would be amazing and be away from the cities. The hustlers are all over Europe so used to that while travelling!

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I promise you that these young Gambian men taking hustling to a whole new level – almost an art-form!! I love safari holidays but I also like to see how people live in the different countries we visit, and although of course many (or most in the case of Africa) are poor compared to us, that isn’t to say that they are suffering, though I accept that many are. If you travel responsibly and give back something to the communities you visit (either directly or through your travel company, or both) then it’s possible, I feel, to put our own notions of wealth and poverty aside and enjoy meeting people who, very often, are very happy to have you visit their country. But I accept it’s not for everyone 🙂

          • Suzanne

            Very good points. I live mixing with locals one of the main reasons we did global housesitting. All about getting out of your comfort zone 🙂

  • Jane Lurie

    Terrific post, Sarah. Your vibrant images brought me there – markets are exciting to photograph- and I especially enjoyed your stunning portraits. A friend did her Teach America volunteer work in The Gambia so I learned a little bit about the country.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Jane, I really appreciate the compliment 🙂 It’s an interesting country, as long as you make an effort to look beyond the beaches (lovely as they are)

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