The City Of A Thousand Warriors
of one-thousand warriors takes its name from an episode in Malagasy history.
King Andrianjaka, who had called his people the Merina (That can be translated
into highlanders) occupied the twelve sacred hills (Ambohitratrimo, Ambohimanga,
Ilafy, Alasora, Antsahadita, Ambohimanambony, Antananarivo, Ambohitrabiby,
Namehana, Ambohidrapeto, Ambohijafy, Ambohimandranjaka) upon which Analamanga
(where the forest is blue) was built, he had his royal palace and stronghold
erected. One thousand warriors were quartered there and he called this
city Antananarivo. In those days, the Merinas were divided into three
castes : Andriana (nobility), Hova (plebeians), and Andevo (labourers).
Antananarivo’s population exceeds one million inhabitants and its urban
area has considerably grown. Surrounded by vast plains used for rice cultivation,
Antananarivo has a Mediterranean climate due to its geographic position
(1,400m above sea level).
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information, the first place you should go to is La Maison du Tourisme
de Madagascar in Antaninarenina, close to the Colbert Hotel.
|In the same
place, you will also find Cheminements touristiques et Culturels d’Antananarivo
a very interesting little guide about seven possible walks in Tana (from
1 hour to a half a day tour).
you chose to visit Madagascar, it would be a pity to leave without staying
a day in Antananarivo and visiting one of the most important and largest
markets in the world: the zoma (Friday in Malagasy). You will have the
opportunity of discovering Malagasy handcrafts (which are extraordinary
if one considers the great many objects produced or the materials used).
You will also have an opportunity of watching the crowd and getting a more
accurate impression of Malagasy personalities.
The name zoma
is used by everybody to describe the long series of bazaars in which thousands
of people selling a very wide choice of handcrafts whose very use can sometimes
which not so long ago took place on both sides of the city’s main avenue
de l’independence) and in adjacent streets has now moved to several
quarters of Antananarivo.
The most interesting
pieces of handcraft may be raffia works (hats, bags, mats, carpets or animals),
pieces of embroidery (tablecloths, dresses and sheets), silver jewels,
curios, jewels and solitaires (Chinese Lady) carved out of semi precious
stones, leather goods (crocodile, snake skin, leather), wood sculptures,
butterfly collections and a great many other interesting objects.
paper” deserves a description all its own: those paper sheets that
look like parchment are made with pulp extracted from a plant’s bark (it
is called avoha in Malagasy). This pulp is laid on frames and adorned with
fresh flower petals and tiny branches and that process results in very
beautiful floral pictures. Those compositions are left out to dry under
the moon’s shade as demanded by a tradition that dates back to the times
of the first Arabian visitors.
our visit of Antananarivo (Starting from the bus station). The food market,
next to the train station, called “Petite vitesse” arouses great
curiosity because of the hundreds of little benches upon which all sorts
of tropical or European vegetables or fruits are displayed in geometric
piles. Another very interesting section of Soarano market is the one dedicated
to medicinal plants. Malagasy people a long time ago developed medicinal
plants based on pharmacopoeia to cure most diseases. There are several
Zomas in the capital: Soarano-Camp Pochard (varied handcrafts), Andravoahangy
(embroidered tablecloths and curtains, pieces of wood sculpture, semi precious
stones), Anosy (fresh and dried flowers, pottery), La digue (mixed handcraft).
interesting places you may want to visit are:The Prime Minister’s Palace
in Manjakamiadana, the Zoological Park and its museum, the Astronomical
Observatory in Antananarivo University and the Croc farm.
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palace towers above the city. It is on this hill (1,500m above sea level)
that King Andrianjaka built the Rova, that is to say, his citadel, but
a fire unfortunately ruined it in 1995 and its reconstruction has not started
a small square close to the rova, one can admire the magnificent sight
that looks out onto the plains that surround the capital. To get an idea
of Madagascar’s magnificent nature, you must visit the Zoological Park
of Tsimbazaza. Actually, your chances of seeing the specimens of animals
and plants gathered in this park would be quite slim in the course of an
usual tour since they live in age old forests or in very remote places
one can sometimes hardly reach. The very immensity of the Malagasy continent
makes it quite impossible to visit, in a single journey, the high Plateaux
forests, the Pangalanes Canal, the alluvial plains of the south and the
tropical forests of the North. You can visit the Park from 8 am to 11 am
and from 2 pm to 5 pm on Thursdays, Sundays and on public holidays. On
other days, you can visit the Park at the same hours after getting an authorization
from a guide who will accompany the group. The Malagasy Academy is also
in Tsi mbazaza: you can admire an important palaeontology that proves very
useful in getting to know Malagasy people and nature’s history.
If you are
planning to stay a few days in Antananarivo, you may organise some tours
in the capital’s surroundings on your own. However, you’ d better go to
a travel agency for assistance in order to avoid unpleasant surprises that
might be due to a poorly maintained rented car, lack of reservations, or
maybe running out of gas, which is sometimes difficult to find. A 20km
long trip leads to Ambohimanga, called “the blue hill”. King Andriantsimitoviaminandriandirazaka
built this small village in 1700. It is from this very place that King
Andrianampoinimerina launched his campaign to conquer Antananarivo in 1794,
laying the basis of Madagascar’s unification under Merina rule. Access
to the city remained forbidden to foreigners up until 1895, a date which
corresponds to the beginning of the French Governorship over Madagascar.
To enter the village, you have to come through a very ancient gate, which,
once upon a time, used to be blocked by a gigantic round stone. This stone
rolled in a furrow dug in the ground until the entrance was totally blocked.
This gate is called Ambavahaditsiomby which in Malagasy translates “where
even a zebu can’t come through”. The citadel’s fortifications consisted
of two series of deep ditches completed with a series of seven gates. A
long series of steps lead to an esplanade, just opposite the royal palace,
from which the Merina Kings spoke to their people . It is nowadays used
to perform folk dance shows.
Antananarivo, at about 10kms from the capital, the Ilafy royal hill looms
up, commanding a beautiful view over Ambohimanga, the sacred hills of Imerina
and Antananarivo. This village was well known for its vineyards. It would
also be King Radama’s favourite residence. He was buried here in 1863.
In a day, you can also go to Lake Mantasoa (70kms from Antananarivo). Get
out of Antananarivo by the Tamatave road (R.N. 2), drive for about 50kms
and change roads in Manjakandriana, a village about 15 kms from Mantasoa
that you can also reach by train.
is one of the 12 sacred hills of the Imerina. Houses were built on a wooded
hill. The people responsible for Malagasy public services have managed
to keep it in very good condition, several wood constructions gives you
a right sight of what a Merina village was in the 1800s. The area next
to the Itasy Massif may reveal itself interestingly thanks to the presence
of former volcanic manifestations such as lava flows and basaltic fields.
Close to Analavory village, you may see active geysers and a series of
40 lakes with volcanic craters.
Get out of
the capital early in the morning by taking Route Nationale n° 7. You
will drive across small villages with red earthen houses typical of the
High Plateaux area. They scarcely have windows and lack chimneys in order
to protect their inhabitants from the cold. The landscape is softened by
very vast paddy fields that are sometimes cultivated in terraces, which
is another clue of Indonesian influence in Madagascar, and conifer or eucalyptus
forests. The road continues and you can see on the horizon the Ankaratra
Range, one of the highest massifs in Madagascar, until you reach Ambatolampy
(1500 m above sea level) where you can stop for a tasty lunch in one of
the good restaurants in the area: Le Marseillais or Au Rendez vous des
Chasseurs which serve several Malagasy dishes and are renowned for their
game, trout and crayfish dishes. Close to that place, the Manja Ranch gives
you the opportunity of spending a quiet weekend or stop for a ride (horse)
in the surroundings. Then, you will drive across a beautiful forest of
conifers for about 100 kms and reach a plain surrounded with mountains
which reaches up to 2500m and then you arrive to: Antsirabe (180,000 inhabitants
from the Betsileo tribe, area telephone code: 44) it is a renowned water
cure town that boasts several springs known, for their curative properties
(which are the same as the springs of Vichy, France, the town was sometimes
called Ranovisy). Actually, those waters, thanks to their sodium, calcium
and bicarbonate are famed for treating liver insufficiency and gall bladder
problems. Their quality and the pleasant climate makes Antsirabe a renowned
place for cures and holidays. The whole area is important for the Malagasy
economy. The economy is based upon farming (vegetables and vintages) and
industries (Star Brewery, cotton mills of the Cotona Campany, a concentrated
milk factory and Melia cigarette factory). The main characteristics of
this city are wide boulevards lined up by flowers (especially mimo sas),
well-designed parks and typical rickshaws that represent the most used
means of transport in Antsirabe and its semi-precious stone laboratories
(semi-precious stones are produced in the area).
We advise you
to visit Lake Tritriva, near Antsirabe (20 kms), located just under the
mount it is named after. This 180 meter deep lake is interesting because
its shape recalls the shape of Madagascar. One very ancient Malagasy legend
deals with this lake: two lovers, whose marriage was forbidden by their
parents, made the decision of drowning themselves in this lake. After drowning
themselves, they were reincarnated into a living shape: in the form of
two very close growing trees next to the lake. Their branches were so intertwined
that they eventually formed a single tree.
on Saturday “Tsena Asabotsy”
this shop specializes in semi precious stones; samples are displayed in
his large workshop beside the benches on which his employees work.
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Hotel des Thermes,
B.P. 72. Three star category, built in rather old world style, but equipped
with all services, which makes it rather comfortable. Good restaurant.
Index ~ Madagascar