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The Gambia, also commonly known as Gambia, is a country in West Africa. It is surrounded by Senegal, apart from a short strip of Atlantic coastline at its western end. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa.The country is situated either side of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the country's centre and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is 11,295 km² with an estimated population of 1.7 million. Banjul is the Gambian capital, but the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.The Gambia shares historical roots with many other West African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese and later by the British. On 18 February 1965, the Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Since gaining independence, the Gambia has enjoyed relative political stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.Due to the fertile land of the country, the economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.HistoryArab traders provided the Gambia's first written accounts in the 9th and 10th centuries. During the 10th century, Muslim merchants and scholars established communities in several West African commercial centres. Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to a large trade in slaves, gold, ivory (exports) and manufactured goods, etc. (imports).