Gambia – a magical place to visit, live and work!

The story of the Austrian architect Angelika Mitterer tells us that the only constant in life is change. She sees challenges as opportunities for growth to live her purpose and offer her family a life in a peaceful society, full of humanity. She wants to contribute in making this world a better place.
What brought you to the Gambia?

Actually a project of an Austrian client who followed their dreams and opened a hotel in The Gambia. 10 years ago a couple from my home town, called Nina and Luis, asked me if I could plan a small boutique hotel in Brufut Heights in The Gambia for them. Nina doesn’t like the winter in Europe and so they wanted to realize their dream of a small but fine hotel in the land of the eternal sun – The Gambia. First, I had to look at the map of the world to get an idea of where The Gambia is! This is how I discovered the smallest country on the mainland of West Africa – an enclave in Senegal. Climatically, the Republic of The Gambia is the ideal place to live and visit for sun-loving people. The tropical climate offers many days of good weather. The rather hot and rainy season usually lasts from June to the end of October. From November till May temperatures are cooler with hardly any precipitation, i.e. pure sunshine for months!

This is how Nina’s and Luis‘ exquisite beach hotel Leo’s was born. With a clear western, straightforward and simple construction, but with the colour scheme from the surroundings, the small, fine hotel blends carefully into the picturesque landscape right on the cliff to the beach of Brufut Heights. Selfsufficient energy and water supplies ensure a stabilty despite fluctuating reliability due to public networks. The idea of sustainability and independence was not only important to me, but also to my clients. Today, Hotel Leo’s is very popular with locals and tourists, not just for the excellent food offered at the restaurant of the hotel. Hotel Leo’s was my first experience of The Gambia and also my first architectural construction experience outside of Europe.

What was your first impression of The Gambia? Has you tied up?

My first visit in The Gambia was when I visited Hotel Leo‘s after the opening. Detoxing from a busy and turbulent personal time at home in Austria, I came to Gambia with a friend. We both just separated from our partners and wanted to relax in the sun. We were pleasantly surprised when we discovered the incredible offerings and treasures waiting for us to be discovered in this country. We originally assumed we would spend a week relaxing by the pool or on the beach. At the end there was not one day without an interesting excursion and unforgettable experience in The Gambia – for example the Katchikally Crocodile Pool, where you can feel your adrenaline patting the crocodile, the large Albert market in the capital in Banjul, which really left me with incredible impressions, or an exciting boat tour through the mangroves to the well-known Lamin Lodge, which a German immigrant built on several floors many years ago using only simple boards. As an architect, out of curiosity I explored many unique lodges and hotels. One lodge, for example, had swings as bar stools, which, as a playful kindergarten teacher, I found very fun. Another accommodation was entirely geared towards an eco-label. Today, visitors can find a wide range of very modern hotels, eco-friendly lodges, offering a very high western standard. Hotel Leo’s in particular is renowned for its African design and it‘s noble, luxurious style.

Why did you move your family from Austria to The Gambia in June 2021? What was the reason for this step?
My family, my husband Manuel and my 4 year-old daughter Leonie and I have decided to go to The Gambia to live our purpose, follow our dreams and to create positive change in this world. Together with my husband, I have been running an architectural practice in Austria for several years, creating sustainable architecture projects. We have specialized in renovation, energy-efficient construction, tourism projects and interior design. My experience from my previous professional career as a kindergarten teacher and the tourism experience of my husband, complemented each other and resulted in the creation and implementation of innovative architecture projects for children, the tourism sector and agriculture. The pandemic brought the ultimate upheaval for us, not only in our way of life, but especially in our way of thinking and attitudes towards people and society in general. We have dealt intensively with many new topics, such as politics, the global economic system and finance, as well as communication and media. These insights widened our horizon and created the foundation for our new professional venture here in The Gambia. What we have experienced personally is the necessity for human beings to break out of deadlocked structures and to be able to organize our lives independently without being constantly influenced by and exposed to manipulation and the control of the western world. We believe that each individual has the right to realize their dreams. In a world full of limitations and control we are creating a safe environment with vast potential, and we want to bring this offering to likeminded people. Making the world a better place and contributing to positive change brought us to The Gambia, a country where we find humanity and peace, where the pandemic has not become part of society’s life and where many positive energies are waiting to be awakened. New opportunities open up in The Gambia for people who want to take ownership of their lives, happiness and success. The Gambia offers many ways for people to make their dreams come true. It is an exciting time and journey ahead of us as a community!
What is your insider tip in The Gambia - something that you absolutely must experience?

My first insider tip in The Gambia is to experience the fruit sellers. Sunday afternoon is a popular beach time for Gambian people. There is always a great atmosphere at the seaside! I mostly enjoy Sundays with my family at Kasumai, a beach bar with a beautiful beach area and 2 pools. Our daughter loves to play and splash around in the pool with the children all afternoon and my husband and I mostly sit in the beautifully landscaped garden, relaxing for a few hours and ordering some fresh and healthy fruit for snacking – this is a real hit! At home in Europe fresh fruit is always packed with a lot of plastic in small portions and very expensive. In The Gambia it’s great that you can choose the types of fruit from a long list. We always enjoy a large plate full of wonderful, delicious ripe fruit at the pool served by the “fruit women” from the beach. That would be impossible in central Europe. Imagine you are sitting in a pub and self-employed fruit sellers serving you at the table. However, in The Gambia the owner of the restaurant sees the added value for his business by allowing the fruit sellers to do their job. There are fruit sellers in several areas in The Gambia and that is my favourite insider tip. The exotic fruit in The Gambia tastes much better and more intense than the mostly unripe variety you find in European supermarkets.

In her column “A magical place to visit, live and work”, Angelika will continuously present individual projects to you in the “My Gambia” magazine.

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