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Behind the Lens: Gunjur

My Magazine 2023/12
3 min
Gunjur is a growing, diverse coastal fishing community in the southern part of The Gambia that boasts great oral history, environmental consciousness, a mixture of village and town life, vibrant djembe bands, and the famous Sand Dunes Mosque which in Mandinka is known as "Kenye kenye Jaamengo".

Gunjur is inhabited by about 25,000 people, predominantly Mandinkas and Muslims, other tribes like Jola, Serer, Fula, Balanta, and Manjago, a vibrant Koroninka (a dialect of Jola) and other tribes. Major economic activities include fishing, agriculture (farming, gardening, cattle herding, etc), trade, construction and tourism. Specific occupations are still reserved for certain tribes. Fulas dominate cattle herding, the Jolas and Mandinkas on farming, the Serers on fishing, etc.

Gunjur is the first Muslim settlement and records the erection of the first mosque and qur'anic school in this region, which explains why it is one of the most religious settlements in the Gambia. It has produced great Islamic Scholars and champions.

Gunjur As a Tourist Destination

Gunjur is an environmentally conscious and socially active community, making it famous among tourists. It has a coconut plantation, turtle conservation village, the Bolong Fengo Community Forest Reserve, Nyamina Forest Park, and innovative women's gardens.

The Coconut Plantation

If you ever imagine responsible travelling, this is one place in Gunjur you should not miss. It is a seafront initiative by the Gunjur Youth Movement for Environment. It allows locals to take pride in combatting climate change through annual tree planting and weekly coconut watering exercises on Sunday evenings. Join the locals on the trail to protect the environment. The locals created their Sunday beach version with the famous Ous Juice Bar, operated by an enterprising youngster in Gunjur.

The Turtle Conservation village

Sea Turtle Conservation Village is a must-visit. It is a combined community effort to protect the endangered marine species, the turtles, an initiative by the Gunjur Conservationists & Ecotourism Association. Due to favourable conditions for turtle breeding, there is a heavy turtle presence in this area, many of which come to shore to nest but are hunted for food by locals and other predators, which the team watches against. They engage in daily night patrols, turtle feeding, observation, data collection, cleaning and refilling the Head Start Tank. In this tank, hatchlings are placed before being released to the sea, and they invite the public to join in the release. This initiative provides volunteer placement with the experience of local family stays, home cooking, attending local ceremonies, and getting closer to the locals.

Bolong Fengo Community Wildlife Reserve

Founded in 1992, this is a haven for birdwatching and other wildlife in Gunjur. It has a wetland because of a lagoon connecting to the Atlantic Ocean and a savannah belt with different plant species covering a 32-hectare land area.

The Sand Dune Mosques "Kenye kenye Jaamengo"

This giant mosque is directly by the beach with a Rhun Palm frond and is considered the most beautiful and sacred mosque in the Gambia. It attracts Muslims within the subregion and beyond. It is esteemed and believed to be occupied by highly devoted spirits able to intercede to attain one's wishes.

The modern mosque tower was built by the former president, Alhagie Yahya Jammeh, who was interested in the place because of its spirituality. It is now turned into a Quranic school for students from the neighbourhood and beyond.

Village Tour

A village tour could start from the Akalo's residence to grab a brief community history and stop by the village market to see the daily trading activities there. Another stop is the mysterious "Kolonba" (big well) near Janneh Koto Kunda, believed never to dry and never had someone fall inside; the neighbourhood explains how their kids had jumped over the well, yet no one fell inside. The nearby Sukutaba could be another stop to hear the sound of the "Tabuuloo" (the religious drum) and the history of the Jannehs as great players of the Tabuulo. The family of the "Nasingba" (women leader) could be another stop-by to learn about her role in the community. You could also stroll through the small first streets which connect the indigenous families of Gunjur. Maybe take an ethnic trail to the Karoninkas, Balantas, Manjagos, Serer or fulas(minority tribes in Gunjur)

Other options could be attending drumming sessions with the famous Djembe bands in Gunjur.

Learning the history of rice production as a tradition in Gunjur is worth visiting the women in their fields from June to December.

Contribute to the livelihood of the local community with a homestay and create an impact in eco-tourism and sustainable development by volunteering in Gunjur. The program can be customised as per your requirements.


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