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A sliver of a country surrounded by Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean, Gambia is a popular destination for many western Europeans. The Gambia River runs straight down the middle of the country, from the Futa Jallon Mountains in Guinea and through Senegal and Gambia to the Atlantic Ocean.

Gambia gained independence from Britain in 1965. The current president is Yahya Jammeh, who originally came to power in a coup in 1994, and was later voted into office ? most recently in 2006.

The country's population is mixed among Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola and Serahuli. Most people follow Islam.  

Direct flights from Europe arrive in the capital, Banjul. Once in Gambia, the efficiency of transportation depends on if you are in the north or the south. Along the south bank of the Gambia River there is a paved road and along the north a dirt road. High-speed ferries are also available, as well as charter cruises.  

Banjul has a quaint marketplace culture. White sandy beaches are probably the greatest draw of Gambia. Wildlife, particularly birds, is another attraction as the country is home to more than 450 species. Resorts are located along 10 kilometers of coastline. The northernmost one, Bakau, has a botanical garden.

The Africa News Cookbook,

Jollof Rice

Serves 6-8. A kind of west Africa paella, Jollof Rice makes an excellent buffet dish for parties. You can put in as many kinds of meat as you like or can afford - or no meat at all. Shrimp makes an extravagent but wonderful addition. Use a heavy pot or large cast iron skillet to discourage burning; stirring often is the key to success. A large wooden spoon works well as an implement. Whatever pot you use, you'll need to be able to cover it tightly. If you don't have a lid, try using an oven-proof plate or platter.

1-2 chickens chopped into small pieces

oil for frying

6 medium onion, chopped

4 green bell peppers, chopped

1/4-1/2 lb. shrimp

3/4 cup carrots, chopped

3/4 cup stringbeans, broken into pieces

3/4 cup peas

6 tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsb cayenne pepper

sprig of thyme, crushed, or 1 tsp. dried thyme

3-4 cups rice

1/4-1/2 cup tomato paste

In a heavy pot large enough to hold everything, brown the chicken in oil. Add onions and peppers and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, saute the shrimp in a small amount of oil and pre-cook the carrots, beans, and peas - or other vegetables of your choice - until about half done, 5 minutes or so (You may boil them all together if you like.) Drain with the vegetables and add, along with the shrimp, tomatoes, salt, peppers, and thyme to the chicken bot. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Combine rice and tomato paste, which should coat the rice grains without drowning them. (In the finished dish, rice should be tinted orange; too much tomator paste will make it red). Stir into the pot and continue to simmer, adding water to sparingly to avoid burning. When meat, rice, vegetable are tender, Jollof Rice is ready to serve.

Variations: Eliminate meat for a good vegetarian main dish, and experiment with a variety of vegetables.