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Sophie, and many of our fellow guests, struggled with that question. Beyond the tarmac, women toiled in fields while their husbands sheltered from the heat in huts and half-built houses.Each morning the same cast of colourful characters dragged their bodies to the pool, sunned themselves for eight hours and then made half-hearted resolutions to "get out and explore tomorrow". Building sites resembled lounge rooms as men reclined in the shade, turning inactivity into an art form.
In the fading light, we spotted lizards scuttling from the undergrowth and egrets stalking through the grass in search of one last edible insect. On a day trip to the wetlands that divide Serrekunda from the Gambian capital, Banjul, we watched pelicans fishing and women in traditional canoes plucking oysters from the mangroves. Admiring his eagerness, we hopped in and agreed a small price for a return trip to a nearby restaurant.
Gambia, a former British colony on West Africa's Atlantic coast, is a case in point.
The tiny country of 1.9 million has neither war nor famine, and is best known to Britons these days as a budget winter tourist resort.
My arrival caught the attention of three cheeky youngsters.
They rushed towards the doorway to greet me, their shrieks of delight disturbing the silence of the home and the slumber of older relatives napping in adjacent rooms.
My taxi driver, Katim, led me into the front room of his home on the edge of Serrekunda, Gambia's largest city.
Twenty chairs were arranged in a horseshoe, each facing the property's most prized possessions: an ancient-looking television and a battered wireless perched on a creaking credenza.
Just like other young men in the Gambian village of Sabaa, Ebrima Touray dreams one day of getting married.
First, though, he must prove himself as husband material - and these days, that involves a lot more than it did for his forefathers.
Yet no matter what the odds, today the expectation is that any young man worth his salt will give it a go.
"Every parent wants their daughter to get married to someone who is in Europe," said Mr Touray.
Sophie's fears were forgotten within five minutes of our arrival at the hotel. " One afternoon he came to see me while I was by the pool and noticed that a female guest was sunbathing topless.