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As the night unfolded and the dancing increased, paranoia circled.
We were two single white Western women of an age that could no longer be considered our twenties and we fit the profile of Sex Tourists perfectly…save for our complete unwillingness to participate in such a vile form of exploitation.
However, it wasn’t until we sauntered down the Senegambia Strip that it dawned on me that the offer from several Bumsters to experience ‘The Real Gambia’ might well have had illicit undertones.
It wasn’t the only warning sign – the night before we had giggled like adolescents at the sight of two fellow female hotel guests flanking a good looking local guy all but dragging him back to their room, his feet barely touched the ground in cartoon fashion as they marched.
Consequently there is very little that tends to shock me, but the extreme levels of male prostitution in this country have done exactly that.
I did little research before coming to The Gambia other than to check it had an under 7-hour flight time from the UK and had sunshine in March.
We spent our entire night engaged in debate about the issue.
The very use of the word Strip used to define the street with bars and restaurants was enough to inspire shudders as banished memories of trips to Spain riddled with Brits Abroad hit my mind.
On the dance floor, a lanky guy with funky dreadlocks bounced to the beat while a mid-fifties woman shuffled from foot to foot in the way only an aunt at a family wedding can, no eye contact passing between them but the inevitability of a night (or an hour) together a deal already done. My friend spotted it first – a women slowly entered the restaurant, her Zimmer frame squeaking across the concrete floor.
Slowly, she took a seat opposite another example of tragedy – a young Gambian guy ready to spend a night trading Dalasi for his body.
It was a sight so absurd and irregular we dismissed it as the quirky behavior of the curious looking Scandinavian girls. As we sat in a restaurant last night feasting on good, local humus and awaiting the local reggae band our eyes peeled increasingly wide as one unlikely couple (or triple) after another took their seats.
There were two consistencies – the youth and good looks of the local guys and the unattractiveness of the Western women who most likely fit the bill of social outcasts back home.