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.
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