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From North Walsham to the "Smiling Coast"

PUBLISHED: 13:15 24 February 2012

Teresa Elmassry with husband Roberto.

Teresa Elmassry with husband Roberto.

Archant

Living the dream - Teresa wanted some adventure and ended up in The Gambia - where she fell in love with the country - and Roberto.

It is one of the great meeting spots in the smallest country on mainland Africa.

Sitting on the corner of one of the busiest junctions in The Gambia it attracts both locals and tourists and there is never a dull moment at the restaurant named after a little girl whose mum comes from Norfolk.

It’s called Yasmina’s and is at the entrance to the Senegambia “strip”, Gambia’s answer to Las Vegas, with shops, clubs, bars, restaurants and yes, even a casino or two.

Yasmine is eight and her mother is Teresa Elmassry, who some of you may know as Teresa Slater from North Walsham who used to live and work in Norwich.

Today she lives on what they call the “Smiling Coast” of West Africa with her Lebanese husband Roberto and their two daughters Yasmine and Elissia, aged five.

And she has plenty to smile about. They are the perfect hosts at the popular bar, cafe and restaurant which is a great place to visit by day and by night.

This is Africa in all its glory and there is always something going outside at the busy crossroads.

Inside Teresa, Roberto and their team are always busy, looking after the needs of their customers from all over the world.

“What’s not to like!” smiled Teresa when we and sat down for a chat during my visit to this fascinating country in January. Outside the sun was scorching hot and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

“There were eight of us,” as Teresa as she looked back on her early years in North Walsham. “And it was a very happy home with lots always happening.”

She went to North Walsham High School and when she left school she came to Norwich. “If we wanted to get a job most of us went to the city.”

Teresa first started work at Mann Egerton when it was in Prince of Wales Road and then moved along to the offices of Sedgwick’s, now Marsh, by St Stephen’s roundabout before going over to work at the Co-op. “I got bought a house on Lawson Road and had settled down in Norwich.

“Everything was fine but then I decided I wanted to do something else with the rest of my life – to see some of the world,” said Teresa.

So she did just that.

She joined the First Choice travel company, working in various countries and climbing the ladder before arriving in The Gambia – looking after the thousands of sun-seekers enjoying a winter warmer on Africa’s west coast.

Many fall in love with the country and come back time and time again – and Teresa fell in love with Roberto, who was running another restaurant at the time.

“I first arrived here in 1998. There was something about The Gambia. I met Roberto a few years later and we married in 2003. I was welcomed by his lovely family. Roberto lost an uncle while he was a pilot fighting for us in the Second World War. They said I was the new English member of the family,” she added.

The couple are now kept busy running the business and looking after their daughters.

Nowadays more and more British and European people have bought or rent properties in The Gambia – tempted by low prices, hot weather and the African way of life.

And it is hoped it will become an all-round round resort – rather than just a winter destination.

“We want people to come and see what this country is all about. It offers so much. Wonderful bird-life, fantastic fishing and hot sun – all just six hours from the UK and with no time difference or language problems. Everyone speaks English,” she said.

Would they ever come back to Norfolk?

“Who knows what the future will bring. We both enjoy going home, catching up with family and friends. We love Norfolk and Norwich, and Roberto says he would like to run a restaurant in Cromer,” she said.

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