The Republic of The Gambia, on the west coast of Africa, is a narrow enclave into Senegal (which surrounds the nation on three sides), with a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, enclosing the mouth of the River Gambia. The smallest country on mainland Africa, The Gambia covers 11 295 km2 and has a population of 1705 000. There are five major ethnic groups: Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola and Sarahuleh. Muslims represent 95% of the population. English is the official language but a miscellany of minor languages are also spoken (Serere, Aku, Mandjago, etc.). The Gambia has a history steeped in trade, with records of Arab traders dating back to the ninth century, its river serving as an artery into the continent, reaching as far as Mauritania. Indeed, as many as 3 million slaves were sold from the region during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Gambia gained independence from the UK in 1965 and joined the Commonwealth of Nations.