FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

The Gambia, Wrestling

Feb 1, 2010
2010 / Feburary 2010

Outlandish costumes, good guys, over-the-top villains, raucous fans, Coke and peanut vendors, an excitable announcer whipping up the hullabaloo in advance of every bout — and the whole thing building up to the much-anticipated main event. Yes, it’s wrestling. But not as we know it.

The venue is a vacant plot in Serekunda township, within walking distance of the Atlantic beaches in the tiny West African nation of The Gambia. The plot is hedged by red-brick walls on three sides, with a temporary corrugated iron fence blocking off the side closest to the main road. A gap in this makeshift fence serves as ticket office and turnstile.

Hundreds of spectators have paid the few coins of admittance. Local dignitaries and foreign tourists have been ushered to the haphazard rows of plastic chairs and wooden benches closest to the fighting area. Everyone else jostles for a standing view.

In one corner, traditional drummers pound a mesmerizing rhythm. The beat never relents. It is the primal pulse of Africa. You can sense your breathing, perhaps even the beat of your own heart, falling into time with it.

All eyes are focused on the arena. The announcer calls out the first two combatants. They are young, lanky, visibly nervous. They are dressed only in briefs. They each splash water onto their torsos, then, glistening in the late afternoon sun, they come to grips. At a shouted signal, their muscles burst to life.

Variations of this spectacle are played out in virtually every culture, from Mongolia to the Amazon rainforest, from the Nubian Desert to the Staples Center. Wrestling began as one of the purest sports: Two men test their strength against each other. In Africa, on the whole, that’s how it remains. Strip away the hoopla, and you are left with an honest contest that will produce a worthy winner and a downcast loser.

“First fight for both,” says the Gambian man standing next to me as we watch the two young wrestlers push and pull each other back and forth. “They are trying very hard.” He shakes his head, laughing.

Soon both men are struggling for breath. Bursts of effort give way to lengthening lulls during which they appear to be propping each other up like a pair of drunks. Finally, one wrestler reaches the point of exhaustion and is thrown to the ground. The crowd erupts. The drumming intensifies. The announcer screams hysterically.

As the bouts progress, there is steady advancement in the age, physique and stagecraft of the wrestlers. The older fighters have colorful monikers, and they strut into the ring wearing animal-skin cloaks and wooden masks that they discard before their fights begin.

The drums beat, whistles screech, the noise of the crowd ebbs and flows, and in the background the two star fighters are making their final preparations. On one side is Yuba Jatta Combat, a wrestler from neighboring Senegal. On the other is Tyson of The Gambia — real name Abdoulie Sonko — the local favorite. With their backs to one another, they each sprinkle the contents of various little bottles onto their skin. Potions. They are dabbling in what they hope will be performance-enhancing witchcraft.

At last they are in the arena, impervious to the frenzy of noise. Their eyes are ferociously intense. When they stoop into the preliminary grip, their bodies seem carved from ebony. The announcer shouts, and the fight begins. This is violence at its most poetic. Arms strain for a hold, legs absorb each onslaught. Finally, Yuba Jatta Combat prevails. Tyson of The Gambia is left bleeding and broken.

It is wrestling, but not as we know it. This is the real thing.

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Explore Excursions

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Jun 21, 2024

New Beds and Restaurants in Boise, Idaho

There’s lots going on in Boise, including an impressive selection of new hotels. Stays at The Sparrow will immediately immerse you in a sense of place, thanks to engaging, infographic- style artwork in each of the 67 guestrooms. You’ll find a local coffeehouse in the lobby, a food truck on the outdoor patio overlooking Grove Street, and an outdoor fireplace inviting guests to linger and mingle. Authentic, local experiences include the Brewery of the Month program.

Why Buy Annual Travel Insurance?

One affordable plan can protect an entire year of trips: business or pleasure, short or long, domestic or international.

June 2024
Jun 21, 2024

Saudi Arabia Fosters Sustainable, Regenerative Tourism Along the Red Sea

 My first experience of Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast now seems like ancient history. It was 1995, and I was visiting my ornithologist cousin and is wife. Getting into the kingdom wasn't easy; I needed sponsorship letters. and a pre-trip interview at the Saudi Arabian Embassy. When I arrived in the country, there was no tourist infrastructure. We toured by SUV ad often slept under the stars. Thus, one morning, we woke up on roll-out mattresses on a Red Sea beach 200 miles from Jeddah.

Daily
Jun 21, 2024

2 New Concept Bars Opening This Fall in Texas and New York

Add New York City and Austin to your list of bar-hopping cities with the highly-anticipated debuts of Brass Poppy and Bar Sprezzatura.

Reconnecting the World: GBTA Convention 2023 Spotlights the Vital Role of Business Travel and In-Person Connection

In an increasingly digital and interconnected world, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention remains an indispensable platform for business travel industry professionals seeking to make the most of the power of face-to-face connections. Taking place August 13–15 in Dallas, the 2023 GBTA Convention provides the unique opportunity for professionals and companies to join visionaries, thought leaders and industry experts for meaningful networking, cutting-edge insights and inspiring innovation.

Daily
Jun 21, 2024

Virgin Hotels to Open First London Hotel in August

On Aug. 1, Virgin Hotels debuts its first London property. Set to open in the heart of Shoreditch, this hotel will mark the brand’s eighth Virgin Hotels location worldwide and the 17th property for the wider Virgin Hotels Collection.

Daily
Jun 19, 2024

Sofitel New York Embarks on Comprehensive Renovation

Sofitel New York recently announced a comprehensive refurbishment project, timed to the Sofitel brand’s 60th anniversary this year. The Manhattan property’s renovation, set to start in late 2024, will reach all facets of the hotel, including the 398 guestrooms and suites, lobby, meeting spaces, elevators, and corridors. Completion of the public areas is anticipated by fall 2025.

IHG Hotels & Resorts: Elevating the Guest Experience & Expanding Globally

With a robust portfolio of brands catering to diverse traveler preferences, IHG has been on a strategic trajectory to conquer key markets worldwide. The IHG footprint continues to grow, offering unparalleled experiences to guests around the globe.

eFlyer Reviews
Jun 18, 2024

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City Review

My husband and I recently enjoyed an overnight getaway at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. The resort is a one-stop shop for an entertaining escape. We packed a lot into our one-night stay, and it left us looking forward to a return visit.