The Gambians set great store by good grooming and Friday is the day when practically everyone spruces up in their Sunday best – Gambian style – in acknowledgement of the Juma’a prayers and the end of the working week.
Not that Gambians aren’t well dressed at any other time. You will always see men neatly turned out in crisply ironed shirts and the women always seem to make an extra effort, but Friday sees a riot of colour on the streets as traditional dresses, shirts and headwraps are adopted by the masses.
After sporting the unplanned and inappropriate backpacker look in Ndemaban last week I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
Sam, another volunteer friend, took us to Serrekunda Market at the weekend to pick up some authentic African print fabric. There’s something fascinating about African markets and sucking on our GMD2 bags of water (a cheaper alternative to bottles) we browsed the dusty lanes, declining offers of hooky DVDs, random plastic housewares and secondhand clothes (apparently this is where a lot of your charity garment donations end up – for sale), in search of material bargains.
After sweating it out in a dark, fabric filled shop I emerged a few Dalasi lighter and clutching 10 metres of in your face primary coloured fabrics.
Lamin, the nimble fingered seamster of Five Star Tailor was press-ganged into a rush job so I would have something ready for the end of the week and came up trumps completing all three pieces by Thursday evening.
The large baggy African print harem pants and floor length bias cut red print skirt were briefly considered but for my grand Friday entrance it could only be the bright green patterned Gambian dress – the favourite colour of the President no less.
And did it elicit squeals of delight or derision? The former of course. We had a photocall in the garden to celebrate the occasion and the fact that I was bang ‘on trend’.
The only missing bit was the matching headwrap but rather like tourists getting their hair braided I knew there was only so far I could carry the whole look off.