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BeachThe Fajara resort and residential town is in the Kombo Saint Mary District, Greater Banjul area, in the West Coast Region of The Gambia, West Africa, and lies 14km east of the Banjul capital. The coastal suburb is a tranquil, relatively prosperous residential neighbourhood, taking in about half of Kairaba Avenue, eastward inland, almost up to Latrikunda. The area is officially divided into sections called 'M' Section, 'F' Section and 'A' Section. The western part towards the Atlantic coast is called Fajara 'M' Section; many of The Gambia's finest restaurants and stores are located there. Compared to Bakau, the 'M Section' district has a unique character, with sleepy neighbourhoods and sandy roads often lined with grand villas, partially hidden by tall block fences often draped in flowers.

The holiday room options in Fajara are usually great value small hotelslodges and guest houses, with added charm and character that's often missing in the other resorts. The nearest thing to a tourist-class hotels here are the seafront based, luxury Ngala Lodge which has a pool, a fine restaurant and excellent bedrooms and suites. The other is the Fajara Hotel, which is on the beachfront, and is the largest accommodation with fantastic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and coastline. There is a small lodgings called the Safari Garden, which has a pool and a family friendly atmosphere, located in the heart of the residential district and only 10 minutes walk to the Leybato beach.

Fajara's beaches are comprised of two types. Starting north from the African Village Hotel in Bakau, and southwards just after Ngala Lodge, the width of the sand is very narrow or at high-tide non-existent. This portion of the coast is dominated by red laterite cliffs, boulders, dense cliff top rhun palms, trees and narrow lanes, but offer fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean South and coastline. As you head further south, the resort's strand becomes much wider and sandier heading towards Kotu Strand, and offers plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, shopping at the craft market, watersports like beach volleyball, or a a pleasant early morning or evening stroll.

If you want to swim in the sea do first look out for swimming conditions warming flags put up by the attendant lifeguards. Do not attempt to sunbath on the narrow strip of sand just off the cliff areas as you could fall asleep while the tide is rising. It would be much easier to just walk along the shoreline, southwards, or take a taxi to the Golf Course road and make you way down the small, paved path to the seashore.

Fajara is first and foremost a residential district, housing prosperous businessmen, diplomats, local politicians and early settling Gambian families. The quality of the houses does vary given that people began to settle here many decades ago, and as a result buildings were constructed at different times.

There are comfortably spaced bungalows and large new villas in amongst the quiet sandy lanes with the occasional corner shop, small restaurant and hairdressers making an appearance.

The main thoroughfare is the Kairaba Avenue which starts at the coast, and has good taxi links. The 'M' section of the road is lined with fine boutiques, diners, office blocks, international banks, supermarkets, clothing stores, hardware retailers and other kinds of shops.

 Africa Living Art Centre
It is located on the Fajara end of the Garba Jahumpa Road, in the lower part of Bakau New Town, the Africa Living Art Centre is a one-of-a-kind building in Gambia. Designed by its owner, it is a tree shaded, two storey, decorated glass and concrete gallery which itself resembles an impressive work of art. Filled with a colourful, diverse collection of exhibits and merchandise such as West African antiques, jewellery, ritual wooden masks and some of the most unique and imaginative garments to be found anywhere in the country. Also on display are paintings by Mr. Suelle Nachif, some showing the hallowed kanaga sign of the Dogon people of Mali. He also hosts workshops, exhibitions and brings artists together.

The space inside has a hair salon, book library area, and the YOK  bar cafe, and is a nice place to eat various snacks such as sandwiches, pastries, Lebanese coffee or refreshing soft drinks and cocktails.

 Bird Watching
The best birdwatching spots in Fajara are at the Golf Course and the slope from there leading down to the shore. With the Kotu stream flowing near part of the course plus some woodland patches and coastal scrub this area provides a  range of habitats for a number of bird species. Here you might be able to spot Abyssinian Rollers, Blue-bellied Roller, Bearded Barbets, Black-headed Plovers, Red-billed  Godwits, Senegal Thick-knee, Firefinches, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters,  Variable Sunbirds and Beautiful Sunbirds.

 Club & Golf Course
The sports club, formerly known as the Bathurst Club, transferred from Banjul to its current premises in July 1955; being the old headquarters of the long defunct BOAC airline's hall on south Atlantic Road. The Fajara Club is best known for its 18-hole golf-course (par 69) near the beach, having moved from its former location at Denton Bridge many decades ago. Don't expect to see much 'green' on the lawns during the dry season; more dry grass and fine sand than lush lawns of Bahama grass.

With the club's main rooms in an old colonial era building, it's not instantly appealing. But it's more than made up for by the  sports and recreational facilities available, such as tennis courts with floodlights, a badminton hall, squash courts, a swimming pool and table tennis. There is also a fitness gym, yoga classes and aerobics. Basic meals and drinks are reasonably priced and served from the clubhouse bar (Tel no: 4495456).

There is a group called the Hash House Harriers who meet there and who organise runs and walks about once a week (Tel no: 4495054).

There are a handful of excellent restaurants within the residential roads of Fajara, as well as on the main highway cutting through the resort. If you are on a budget you can still have an enjoyable meal as some of the no frills diners. Below is a selection of some of the well known diners in the area.

 Koko Curry (Indian cuisine)

 Butcher's Shop Restaurant (Moroccan)

 Francisco's Restaurant (International & local cuisine)

 Mama's Bar & Restaurant (European & African)

 Ngala Lodge (The diner is open to public; best international cuisine)

 Clay Oven (Indian dishes)

Starting a few metres from the US Embassy and going along Kairaba Avenue towards the Atlantic coast, you will find dozens of retail stores lining the road. The shops here however are not geared towards tourist trinkets and souvenirs, they are aimed more at relatively affluent locals who are looking to buy food, clothes, furniture etc. If your travel budget can stretch a bit then try and visit the Emporium Shopping Centre. It is a vast glass and marble effect facade building, selling top quality imported home furnishings such as vases, tables, sheets,  chairs, curtain fabrics, ornaments and other merchandise. The Emporium also has a gift shop and store with bodycare products. There are plenty of small items that you can pick up while on holiday and keep within your baggage allowance.

Tourist Craft Market is on Fajara beach, near to Kotu Strand. Here you can buy African jewellery, brightly coloured batiks, drums, wood carvings, sandals, tie and dye, handbags and more. To reach here you go down to the end of the Atlantic Road, near the Golf Course entrance, and take the small footpath to your right, which goes all the way down to the seafront.

The Timbooktoo Bookshop is a 3-storey megabookstore on the Garba Jahumpa Road, not far from the Sabena junction at Kairaba Avenue. It has a superb choice of non-fiction and fiction, including a wealth of African literature by Africans, plus periodicals, stationery and local newspapers. Inside is the Mango Cafe. Timbooktoo also has the Cultural Encounters Information Centre where tourists can enquire about local lodgings, ground tours and other travel information for people on holiday to The Gambia.

If you need groceries, bodycare products, toiletteries, small housewares, especially if you are in nearby self-catering accommodation, there is the well stocked mini-market called the Discount Centre. They have a good range of cereals, milk, yoghurt, biscuits, potato chips, soft drinks and much more. They also have a few clothes in their expanded section.

Among the well known landmarks in Fajara M Section are the American Embassy Banjul, Emporium Shopping Mall, Sankung Sillah Building, Galp Energia Petrol Station, Standard Chartered Bank building and the Traffic Lights Junction.

 War Cemetery
The Fajara War Cemetery has 203 people interred there, 4 of which are unidentified. It includes Gambian, British and Canadians who lost their lives in World War 2. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and includes a RWAFF memorial tablet dedicated to local servicemen buried overseas.

The resort area here is quite a safe place to  stay for travellers to The Gambia. The incidence of serious crime is very low, and there are security personnel and local watchman in over 90% of the residential properties here, and the main roads are usually well lit.

When walking along this end of Kairaba Avenue avoid walking on the road itself. Vehicles often overtake each other here and you could place yourself at risk of injury. If you are dining out in the evenings do rub on mosquito repellent on your arms, neck and legs, if exposed. Whenever you feel thirsty while out and about buy some bottled water. Finally, the nearest fire station is in Bakau.

In the 'M Section' there is a yellow taxi rank on the Bertil Harding Highway (opposite the Galp Petrol Station). A cab there can take you down towards Kololi, Senegambia, and beyond to Bijilo, Kerr Serign and Brusubi. There are no minibuses at the rank but do drive past, so you can hail one from the street. There is also a small taxi rank at the coastal end of Atlantic Road, very near to Francisco's Bar & Restaurant.

The regular travel routes taken by vans is from the Bakau Village Market, down Sait Matty Road, down the Garba Jahumpa Road and onwards to Serrekunda along the Kairaba Avenue. To get to Fajara from Banjul International Airport you can hire a taxi (green).  It will cost about a third more than yellow taxis, but the yellow cabs aren't allowed to wait at the airport. Outside the airport the fares are posted up on the right side of the main entrance on your way out. If you need to hire a self-drive vehicle from the airport then try Hertz Rent A Car.

The other mode of local transport is by rickshaw. You will have to flag them down.

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[Geographical coordinates 13.4700 N, 16.6964 W. / Kombo North Saint Mary District (Ksmd, WCR)]

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