As we drove towards Serekunda Market in The Gambia, I was not sure what to expect as it was my first time in the market. There was the challenge of where to park the car; so my friend and I had to get down for the driver to find a place to park.
While we trekked towards the market, I saw some traders by the roadside. One spread his second hand clothes on top of a car parked by the road. The car was very dirty and did not appear to have been moved in months (or years?). Another trader placed some apples in a carton and called out to customers, “Pom, 10, 10 Dalas.”
The market appeared not planned; for the goods were not sold in sections. Clothes were sold in the midst of meat, vegetables and palm oil.
Some of the traders could not do simple summation which gave me the impression that they could be cheated. My friend wanted to buy five litres of palm oil, so we approached a girl selling palm oil, who told us the price of one litre, but could not tell us the price of five litres. The woman beside her could not, the man she called to assist was also as handicapped as the other two and so we had to go elsewhere.
The air in the market was very stuff and had a pungent smell. I was certain it was not cigarette. On further enquiry, I was told that it was grass. When the traders were not attending to customers, a number of them were either smoking grass or drinking the Chinese tea, which they called ‘Ataya.’ So when you see a small charcoal stove with a kettle on it beside a trader in Serekunda Market, he is sure brewing Ataya.
As we moved around the market, I saw shops that had spices, cereals, legumes, tomato puree and some other food items packed in small transparent poly bags. I commented to my friend and she said, “Yes, food items are sold in ‘aliquots’ so the least person could buy.” The smallest pack of spagetti would only be enough for a child of a few months or may be a year and certainly not for an adult. Unless the adult intended to buy a pack each of spaghetti, rice, beans and spices to make a meal.
Practically everything sold in the market was imported apart from fish. The Gambia is known as the smiling coast and so you can imagine that there would be a lot of fish of varying sizes, shapes and colours. They were sold either fresh or smoked.
My friend made us go up and down the market looking for good bargains and when it was time to leave, we spent additional time looking for our way out to the road. I got to the car tired and sleepy but I was glad that I got to know a bit about the Gambians.