Monday Photo: Urban Street Life, The Gambia, West Africa

Urban street life, Serrekunda, The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio
Everyday life on the streets of Serrekunda, one of the busiest market towns in The Gambia, West Africa © Helen Jones-Florio, 2016

Blessed by a Marabout – spiritual healers, Koranic scholars – in West Africa


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Jason Florio sets the scene, to photograph Mr Bah, the marabout, and his family, Tuba Dabbo, The Gambia. Image © Helen Jones-Florio


A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey‘ 2009

When we stayed with Alkalo, Fatou Dansu (one of only 5 female chiefs, at the time, in The Gambia), in the town of Basse, we met a strange, yet intriguing, old man called Mr Bah. Outwardly, he reminded me the obsequious Uriah Heep, the oh so humble character, from Charles Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’. He walked with a stoop, continuously rubbing his dry, parchment-like, hands together. And, when he shook your hand, he stroked the back of it, slowly, with his free hand – as if to somehow take away an imprint of who you were – whilst all the time, not breaking eye contact. It was a little disconcerting, to begin with, but as we spent more time with him, it began to feel as if we were in the presence of a rather unique individual. He had this odd little click in his voice, when he spoke; indicative of the Fula people, of whom he was one. The chief, Fatou, explained that Mr Bah was a marabout – a medicine man, spiritual healer, Koranic teacher and fortune-teller –  and a much respected, highly-esteemed man, throughout the area, at that.

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Mr Bah, the marabout, reading the sand – The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio


After Mr Bah did a ‘reading in the sand’, for Florio and I, when we eventually reached his village of Tuba Dabbo, I would go so far as to say that I felt very honoured, to have met him.  Even if he did always seem to magically materialise, whenever we put hot water on the fire, to boil, for tea!

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Tea’s up! Helen, Mr Bah, and Janneh  (expedition team mate)- Basse Santa Su, The Gambia, West Africa. In the background is ‘Neil’ one of the two donkeys who walked the whole 930km with us © Jason Florio 


Words by Helen Jones-Florio – journal entries from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – 930km African odyssey’ Read/see more on the blog about the journey.

Press: ‘The Spirit of the Seaside’ – walking along the coastline of The Gambia, West Africa

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Waiting for the boat over to Jinack Island, The Gambia – Image © Helen Jones-Florio


March-May 2015Wings Magazine/Arik Air

As my wife, Helen, and I set off on an 80km six-day ramble along the sun-soaked coast of The Gambia’s relatively short coastline, it’s not
merely the splendour of the coast and heat of the sun we are after but also its mystical heritage... ” read the whole feature here – words by Jason Florio / Images by Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

Images ©  Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio