This is the Gambia’s largest town, and its name means the ‘home of the Sayer family’ (Sayer Kunda), named after its 19th century founder, Sayerr Jobe, a Wolof royal from Koki, Senegal.
Serrekunda has a population of about 390,000, and is 13km to the southwest of the capital, Banjul. It is actually made up of nine villages which have merged into an urban sprawl that incorporates the villages of Latrikunda, Dippa Kunda, Bundung and London Corner, and effectively forms the Kanifing LGA, in the Kombo St. Mary District.
The urban settlement is about 3 kilometres inland from the coastal resorts of Kololi and Kotu. What you can’t miss out in this town
- Serrekunda Market
The Gambia’s commercial centre and heart of the town is said to have been originally started by several women regularly setting up their stalls by a dirt path selling a few fresh vegetables and dried fish.
As time went by other local food sellers joined them and it subsequently grew into the bustling market it is today. It has now effectively spread out to encompass nearly all the nearby roads leading into the market area and many of their side streets.
Pavements merge into the road with pedestrians dominating half the road on either side, letting vehicles through occasionally.
If you want to get a good feel of day-to-day, urban West African cultural existence; a trip to the core of town Market building offers you a strong experience.
At times the centre’s major roads are filled with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, spewing out diesel fumes, taxis repeatedly blaring their horns, loud music played from any number of ghetto blasters and radios, and streets thronging with over-full colourful stands, wheelbarrow boys pushing heavy goods for their clients, street hawkers and traders’ stores selling a jumble of cheap imports. Goods literally spill out of their shop fronts in an organised or de-organised way.
- Serrekunda Town
The main artery leading southwest towards the market is the Sayerr Jobe Avenue, which is jammed with local shops, ageing taxis, handicraft sellers, street peddlers and wholesale merchants’ stores, from all over West Africa and several Arab countries. Walking and shopping along Sayer Jobe Avenue is usually enough for anybody.
Close to the enclosed market at the corner of Sayerr Jobe Avenue and Mosque Road, every metre of road-side is often taken by traders and shoppers, and every section of road is blocked with autos, barrows, cyclists, motorbikes and even more pedestrians!
Beyond the immediate market vicinity, the busy commercial roads offer up interesting perusing and shopping possibilities, with a large variety of commodities on display.
You’ll pass photo studios, barbers, fabrics shops selling tailoring ribbons, bobbins, headscarves, textiles and lace, people selling any number of unrecognisable dried leaves, twigs, bark and powders, plastic utensils are everywhere, iron mongers’ workshops, with rows of strung aluminium ladles, incense burners, and neat stacks of large, shiny, aluminium cooking pots on protruding legs and iron cooking stoves.
You can also find carpenters working from cramped workshops, chiselling and carving ornate wooden beds, wardrobes and other local furniture.
- Batik Factory
For tie-dyed and batik fabrics, Serrekunda has a well-known “Batik Factory”, Ms. Musu Kebba Drammeh’s workshop in Dippa Kunda, off the Mosque Road. On the 10th March, 2003, Musu Kebba passed away and the management of the workshop passed onto her daughter.
You are not usually allowed to observe craftspeople at work here, but if you are lucky, you might see the tie dye and batik making process from the design, waxing and boiling, to the finished material.
Use the opportunity to get hold of some souvenirs. There are lots of finished fabrics for sale, including clothing and wall coverings, plus a stand selling wood carvings such as masks and djembe drums.
This is the national sport of the Senegambia region. Wrestling contests usually take place on Saturdays and Sundays in the local wrestling arenas such as in the Serrekunda West Mini Stadium, or at the National Stadium in Bakau.
Each wrestler has a group of djembe drummers who rhythmically and vigorously beat their drums and blow pea-whistles before each bout. The winner of each bout is the one who gets his opponent on the ground first.
Kicking, punching, biting, and throwing sand into an opponent’s face are not against the rules, but is frowned upon, and the referee or the offender’s manager could step in and stop the bout. Spectators would normally make their disapproval clear by booing.
- Paper Recycling Skills Project
One place worth visiting is the Paper Recycling Skills Project (PRSP) in Fajikunda. You can buy various paper products; and any profits generated goes back into the community. PRSP is located a little further south of Serrekunda’s centre, in the ‘Craft Village’, in Fajikunda, near Latrikunda.
It was founded in 2001 by May Rooney, an English artist, to create job opportunities and training, support education projects and encourage a recycling culture in The Gambia, the project produces attractive, handmade paper, school exercise books and covers, cards, albums and lampshades and more from discarded materials.
Profit is used to buy school equipment and other community items. In early 2012 the charity launched a biomass recycling research and training centre at Fajikunda–Abuko. It involves creating doughnut briquettes made from waste paper and waste agricultural materials to be used as an alternative fuel in cooking stoves.
This was set up to support the local community in enhancing their capacity to better preserve and protect the country’s forest areas.
- Kairaba Avenue
Formerly known as the Pipeline Road, it links the genteel Fajara residential section and Serrekunda. In the 1970s it was essentially a rough dirt road coursing through fields and past a few built homes.
Today, the 1.86 mile length of Kairaba Avenue is straddled by food stores, supermarkets, banks, office blocks, restaurants, electronic shops, furniture stores etc., and attracts the steepest rents in The Gambia. It joins the Banjul to Brikama highway at the busy Westfield Junction roundabout.
Towards the southern end of the avenue is a tall, modern building of a mobile phone operator’s head office, Latrikunda Upper Basic School, many retail stores and next to the football playing field is the area’s main cultural centre, the Alliance Franco-Gambienne (or Alliance Française).
The French Cultural Centre is focused on teaching French classes, cultural activities such as theatre and live musical performances and French and English film viewings.
There is a library, a cafeteria and a music recording studio which local talent can hire and record their own music.
- Mosque Road & Latrikunda
If you go down Mosque Road from Latrikunda German from Kairaba Avenue, you should be able to spot the ‘Big Tree’; a revered and genuinely huge silk cotton tree, just clipping the main road.
Most of this end of Mosque Road is often nicely shaded with trees and an interesting place to wonder down. The commercial buzz becomes increasingly hectic as you stroll south towards Dippa Kunda and the main commercial district.
- Night Clubs
Serrekunda is an ideal place to get a sampling of local nightlife, and its home to The Gambia’s well established Jokor Nightclub.
It is a fairly safe place for tourists to visit as it is on the well-lit Westfield Junction / Kombo Sillah Drive, and has a moderate crowd with fairly decent guest facilities such as toilets.
There is also plenty of car parking space available around the back, which is guarded. The revelling doesn’t really get going much before 12am; then goes on until 4am or later, when club goers move on in search of a fast food meal, very often afra.
While Serrekunda’s restaurants are not geared towards tourists, it has some good local eating establishments, particularly near the market.
A good place to visit for some quick food and a break is Sen Fast Food on Sayerr Jobe Avenue and near Westfield Junction or Four Seasons which is further west on Kairaba Avenue.
There are some local bars in town which get busy at night; many of these occasionally see travellers, and you’ll almost certainly be welcome. Try to keep to the ones on the main street or not too far.