The Gambia - people and their customs

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The Gambia - people and their customs

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The Gambia has unique qualities over many other destinations. It is only six hours away from major European destinations, there is no jet lag, and it is a popular and affordable winter destination attracting tourists in search of sun, sea, sand and cultural experience of which this unique country has plenty.

The Gambia has a population of over 1.3 million people belonging to eight ethnic groups as well as fairly large communities from neighbouring West African countries.

Gambia's main indigenous groups have a highly stratified society wherein status is determined by birth. At the top of the social heap are traditional noble and warrior families, followed by the farmers, traders and persons of caste - blacksmiths, leather workers, wood workers, weavers and griots (GREE-oh). Griots are lowest of the castes but are highly respected, as they are in charge of passing on the oral traditions and are usually the only ones who can recite the family or village history. Slaves occupied the lowest rank of the social ladder, and although slavery is now long gone, many descendants of former slaves still work as tenant farmers for the masters of old.

The overwhelming majority of Gambia's population is Muslim, although many practitioners combine their faith with traditional animist beliefs. It's not uncommon to see Gambians wearing a small leather pouch around their neck, arm or wrist; called gris-gris (pronounce 'gree-gree'), these amulets are thought to ward off evil or bring good luck.

Great importance is also placed on greetings. Wolof and Mandinka people, for example, greet one another with a ritual that lasts up to half a minute starting with the traditional Islamic greetings salaam aliekum and Aliekum asalaam ('Peace be with you,' 'And peace be with you.') This is followed by several more questions about the other's family, home life, village, health etc. The answers - which are almost always that things are fine, even for people on death's door - are often followed with Al hamdul' lillah ('Thanks be to God.') In the larger cities, traditional greetings sometimes give way to shorter versions in French or English, but they're never forgotten. If you learn a few stock greetings in the local lingo, you're bound to be a big hit with the locals.

affordable = dostupný (cenově)
although = ačkoliv, přestože
be bound to = být nutně, zajisté
belief = víra
blacksmith = kovář
caste = příslušnost ke kastě, prestiž
descendant = potomek
devout = oddaný, zbožný
evil = zlo, špatnost
griot = pojem pro básníka, zpěváka, potulného muzikanta
gris-gris = amulet chránící dotyčného před zlem a nosící štěstí
heap = hromada, pyramida
indigenous = původní, domorodý
jet lag =
 syndrom, kterým trpí lidé po překonání několika časových pásem
leather = kůže
lingo = jazyk, hantýrka, žargon
neighbouring = sousední, vedlejší
noble = šlechtic
overwhelming = ohromující, drtivý
pouch = vak, mošna, brašna, pytlík, kapsička
rank = pozice
recite = přednášet, recitovat
slave = otrok
slavery = otroctví
stock = zásoba
stratified = rozvrstvený
tenant = nájemný, najmutý
trader = kupec, obchodník
ward off = odvrátit
warrior = voják, válečník, bojovník
weaver = tkadlec
wherein = kde

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