Sabine Koning is a Dutch travel and food blogger with the website, OhMyFoodness. She was recently in The Gambia on a one-weak business trip.
What’s On-Gambia: Why did you decide to visit The Gambia?
Sabine:I was in The Gambia for a press trip with bloggers and journalists from The Netherlands. So I visited for work purposes and not for leisure.
How comes the fear of Ebola, which has gone too far in the Western world, did not stop you?
Since the media, The Gambia and our International Department were all very clear on Ebola in The Gambia: it wasn't there. And furthermore, I trusted the company that sent us. I couldn't imagine that they would send a group of journalists to The Gambia if there had actually been a serious threat of Ebola.
Tell us about your cooking classes with Ida Cham?
It was great, highlight of the trip in my opinion. Not only was Ida Cham very friendly, she also could tell us/me a lot of tradition Gambian Food, the different ways of preparations and how important the use of fresh products is. Furthermore, she was also very welcoming and dressing up in African clothes really added to the experience.
What do you think about Gambian food?
To be honest I think it is a petty that there aren't many local dishes and that they are very hard to experience as a foreigner. Most of the restaurants seem to be Indian or at least foreign-orientated. Nonetheless, the dishes I got to taste (Benachin, Yassa, Domoda) were delicious. Very safe though, because normally I am used to eat very strong flavors when I am traveling, but this was good for a change. And of course I loved the use of fresh products.
What do you love most about The Gambia?
The Natural Environment and the people, everyone is so friendly.
Many people say it is the Smiling Coast of Africa. Do you agree?
Yes, definitely. People are so friendly in The Gambia! But I am not so fond of the beach-sellers and restaurant owners that try to talk you into their restaurants, but that is part of the job I guess.
How do you think tourists, who are scared of Ebola, could be encouraged to visit The Gambia?
As long as the media talks so bad about Ebola, I think tourist won't be encouraged to visit The Gambia. For most of them it is hard to imagine that West Africa is so big. When there is an Ebola outbreak in for example in Guinea, they also expect it to be in The Gambia and that is a shame. Hopefully people that visited The Gambia will encourage tourists to go there.
The only thing we (as journalists) can do is to write about the safety and clean environment in The Gambia. And hopefully that will do the trick.
Do you known why The Gambia is a popular tourist destination for many Dutch travelers?
There are a few reasons for it actually. Of course the weather is very nice and when it is becoming autumn/winter in The Netherlands, The Gambia has the weather we are looking for. And normally we will need to travel a lot further for beach-weather around November/December, while The Gambia is pretty close by.
When are you returning?
(Laughs) I will return that is for sure, but when is the question. I don't know yet.
Any final words?
I think I expressed everything I wanted to say!