African village

Bundles of grass in front and to the side of four huts

Roof frame in Africa

The roof is framed and the grass bundles are on the right


Overland travel gives us a great chance to observe daily life in towns, villages and the countryside.

As we’ve moved from country to country in West Africa, one of the most noticeable differences is the style of housing and construction. Some differences are slight while others are more varied. Northern Guinea and Guinea-Bissau were the first places where I saw simple roofs being repaired for the rainy season. Maybe this is now happening in all the countries we’ve already visited.

When I first saw the bundles of grass in the two Guineas, I assumed they might be feed for animals, but it didn’t take long to realise this was roofing material for buildings covered in thatch. I don’t know how much the grass costs or how much it takes to cover a roof.

Roofing materials, Africa

Grass for roofs

Roofing materials and huts, Africa

Roofing materials stored off the ground and a style of fencing I hadn’t seen before

I thought you might enjoy seeing the various stages in the process.

As an aside, we took a two-hour boat trip through extensive mangroves in The Gambia. Our guide, Omar, is rushing to get his house built (or at least enclosed) before the rains begin in June. He is using corrugated iron for the roof. He needs 10 packets of the stuff—I don’t know how big a packet is—at 1800 Gambian dalasis per packet. That’s equal to about 330 euros for all 10 packets. So far, he’s purchased four packets of new roofing material and hopes to find cheaper secondhand materials for the rest. We tipped him generously.

African roof in progress

Roof in progress

Finished roof, Africa

Finished roof


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