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Gambia is the smallest country in Africa with a total area of 4,363 square miles (11,300 square kilometers), slightly less than twice the size of Delaware.
Gambia has the typical West African climate: there is a hot, rainy season (June to November), and a cooler, dry season (November to May).
In 1843, however, the Gambia was separated from Sierra Leone. The British did not begin to develop Gambia properly until after World War II when administration posts were set up. Independence Day was 18 February 1965 when Gambia became a sovereign republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
In 1969, Gambia and Senegal formed Senegambia, but in 1982 the confederation was dissolved with the mutual consent of both partners. Although the Gambia is comprised of people of many different ethnic groups, there seems to be relative harmony among them and among people of different religions.
Muslims were involved in the trans-Saharan slave trade, as well as more legitimate trade.
Along with trade, merchants brought Islam and Muslim culture to Gambia.
The main ethnic groups in Gambia are the Mandingo (42 percent of the overall population), Wolof (16 percent), Fulani (18 percent), Jola (10 percent), Serahuli (9 percent), other Africans (4 percent), and non-Africans (1 percent).
By age, the population is distributed as follows: (per a 1999 estimate) 0–14 years, 46 percent (male, 305,839; female, 304,905); 15–64 years, 52 percent (male, 341,947; female, 348,163); 65 years and over, 2 percent (male, 18,706; female, 16,760).
Its various ethnic groups migrated to Gambia from different areas of West Africa.
Trade was vital to Gambia, especially trade with Ghana, Songhai, and the Mali Empire (between the Atlantic Ocean and the River Niger), Kanem-Bornu, and the Hausa States. In the 1450s, Venetian explorer Alvise Cadamosto, under commission from Portugal, was the first European to reach the Gambia River.
The English were not far behind, coming to West Africa to buy gold and spices.
Gambia became part of a larger British colony, the Province of Senegambia, which included present-day Senegal and Gambia.
The Senegambia has the distinction of being the first British colony in Africa.