Now that the democratically elected president His Excellency Adama Barrow has returned home and started work in earnest, peace and normalcy has also returned to this beautiful country and therefore, it is most apt to invite the visitors, including foreign tourists, to return to our shores for their winter break! Indeed, we have to, at least in passing, apologize to all those tourists who have had their beautiful stays rudely disrupted on 18 January, and had to be rushed home, for the fleeting inconvenience, and to assure them that the attractions that now awaits them here are even more than what they would have experienced.
First, the new sense of optimism and openness that has come with President Barrow’s accession to power is indeed worth experiencing at first hand. Any tourist with a sense of political or social activism, will indeed be impressed by the sanguinity of Gambians. If before Gambians struck one as dispossessed, awkward, bored and seemingly passed over, now under the new dispensation, any visitor will enjoy our sense of homeliness, boisterousness, and empowerment. If, before now, The Gambia had the aura of an abandoned hut waiting for the termites to turn its innards into a mound of soil, now it is a hopeful house with even more caring and sharing and protecting folks.
Second, there is a new sense of openness in the country which will surprise repeaters as we in the tourist/culture sector call the frequent visitors to The Gambia. Even the most friendly travel writers used to warn potential visitors to be AWARE of and AVOID talking politics in the open lest a gum boot shoes one in. Also, tourists were warned not to venture into certain areas, not to take photos of certain people and places including public spaces as innocent as markets, for example. That was then: now in the New Gambia tourists are assured of freedom laden visits, devoid of any form of security worry.
Third, memorabilia collectors will have a field day when they visit The Gambia in the coming weeks and months. The December 1 elections and its terrifying 40 days aftermath have spawned a catalogue of activist based memorabilia such as the ubiquitous GambiaHasDecided T-shirts, the Gambia flag, bills carrying the image of the new president even copies of local newspapers witnessing the historic moments unfolding in our country. Photo journalists and other avid photographers will also have a worthwhile visit recording these happy unfolding events in the country. A new Access to Information Act is in the offing under President Barrow, which will make our country, ‘this great nation’ as ex-president Jammeh called it, even more (foreign) journalist friendly. So, the press is invited!
Lastly, 18 February will be The Gambia’s 52 independence anniversary, in itself alone a worthy event by any account; now it will also be the day for the formal inauguration of our new president before his peers in and outside of the sub-region, and the large Gambian masses. This promises to be a great political historical and cultural fiesta which is worth experiencing by old friends and new tourists.
Welcome to The Gambia! Welcome to The Gambia! Welcome to The Gambia!
By: Hassoum Ceesay, Historian
Hassoum Ceesay new book ‘Patriots: Profiles of Eminent Gambians’ was published by Global Hands Publishing, UK, 2016.