The City of Banjul was founded in 1816. As an important strategic point of the country, it played a crucial role in history. The city lies on a peninsula, surrounded by river Gambia at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean. Its position makes it impossible for urban sprawl. It leaves Banjul solely as the administrative and economic centre of the country.
Most colonial cities emerged during the time of the slave trade to promote the trade. Banjul was founded after constructing houses and barracks to control the entrance to the Gambia estuary and suppress the slave trade.
As it was previously called, Bathurst was first leased by the King of Kombo to the Duke of Courtland and Semigallia in 1651 and later ceded to Alexander Grant of British governance in 1816.
Having the only port in The Gambia, today Banjul is the epicentre of the import/export trade and is somehow overwhelmed with the pressure of trading and commerce.
Being the country's economic centre, it is pretty amazing how lonely Banjul becomes after 5 pm and during weekends when most workers would return to their homes outside the capital, making Banjul a less hectic place to visit. However, you will not be able to do your shopping stroll past lively shops on the ground floors of the buildings built in different architectural origins and styles throughout the town's history.
Besides the vivid combination of architecture, Banjul is also attractive because of the many points of interest. You would not want to miss visiting the Never Again Memorial Arch (The Arch 22), The Gambia National Museum, Albert Market with craft market, and stroll down the streets to see King Fahad Mosque, MacCarthy Square, main port, Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, St Mary's Cathedral and more. On the city's outskirts lies another architectural beauty, The National Assembly of The Gambia.
This massive, 36m high gateway, built to celebrate the military coup of July 22nd 1994, grants excellent views of the city and its daily activities. It was built to remember the former president's Yahya Jammeh coup to take control from the then-president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Soon the arch will be renamed Never Again Memorial Arch in honour of all the victims of gross human rights abuses and violations under former president Yahya Jammeh. The third-floor museum about the coup d’état now tells stories of the victims of the former regime. The bar and restaurant on the same floor are soon to open again, as well as the gift shop.
The National Museum has the most extensive collection of artefacts and documents documenting The Gambia's culture, nature, and history over the last 70 or more years.
Opened in 1985, The Gambia National Museum plays an important role in tourism promotion and education of the visitors and residents about the heritage of The Gambia.
The wooden building, which is very rare to see in The Gambia, houses three floors with different collections. The basement level presents musical heritage and a vast array of instruments played throughout the country, tribes and historical periods. The ground floor concentrates on the capital city, Banjul, showcasing political and historical development as well as its cultural aspect of it. The top floor covers the natural history exhibit. It portrays historical periods from early age excavations up to post-independence.
Albert Market is one of the oldest in The Gambia. Named after Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, it offers commerce for many fruits, fish, herb sellers, and also woodcarvers or other artists with their handmade products set in purposely made shops at the part of the craft market. Stalls of the Albert market are nicely distributed, forming a labyrinth vast enough to enable comfortable passage while browsing through different products vendors have to offer.
Take enough time to fully take in all the colours, smells and sounds of the market. You can stop for a drink, street food snack, or just try your bargaining skills.
The majestic mosque is the principal mosque of Banjul, with a capacity of 6000 worshipers. The mosque was constructed in 1988 and named after Saudi Arabian King. Its modern architecture and two octagonal minarets grace the skyline of Banjul, where the mosque is one of the most recognisable landmarks.
The square was named after the British governor Sir Charles MacCarthy, who actively campaigned to suppress the slave trade. During the time of Yahya Jammeh's reign, the park was renamed July 22nd Square but proclaimed with the previous name after the election of Adama Barrow. The square is open to the public for special celebrations such as national holidays and Independence Day when you can watch marching parades from the grandstands.
Banjul Cathedral was built in 1901 by the Church of England. Christianity, which represents about 4% of the population's religion today, was introduced to the Gambia by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century. The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Banjul, belonging to the Anglican Diocese of The Gambia, being part of the 17 dioceses in the Church of the Province of West Africa.
The river crossing is one of the main transport routes since many commutes from Banjul to Barra. The ferry is also used often for transport service when travelling from southern Senegal to Dakar. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes, but you might have to wait a bit longer for the ferry to arrive, load, depart and unload.
It is the only teaching hospital in The Gambia, built in 1853 by the British Government. With 547 beds, it served as the principal hospital of The Gambia. It offers consultant and general services in more than 12 clinical disciplines. It strives to establish the highest quality of health care teaching and learning provided to the patients.
On the way to or from Banjul, you will see a magnificent National Assembly of The Gambia building. It is the unicameral legislature of The Gambia. Fifty-three members are directly elected through the first past the post, and five members appointed by the president form the legislative authority.