"Antananarivo, my birthplace - Tana, my first home" Top 5 Page for this destination Antananarivo by Norali

Antananarivo Travel Guide: 192 reviews and 470 photos

So you made it to my Antananarivo page. Welcome then !

Where to start... maybe I'd simply comment my picture, first... then broaden, broaden.. to deliver you my impressions, likes and dislikes of my favourite city in the world.

This is picture of one hillside of Antananarivo (ex-Analamanga) hill. I took it by chance when leaving my city and heading to Antsirabe, a city 160km off Tana.

This hillside is Atsinanan-dRova (East of the Rova). The Rova is the Royal compound that is on top of the hill. You see the main element of the Rova here, Manjakamiadana Palace. Well, this (uncomplete) building is a reconstructed version of the original one that was built centuries ago. The whole complex was arsoned in 1995 and is now being reconstructed. Still, visiting it, you'll be granted with the best panoramic views over the city.

On the picture, you see three palaces: at your left, Manjakamiadana palace (its stone facades - no roofing yet) with, at its background, the spire of the protestant temple in the Royal complex; at your right, Andafiavaratra palace (Prime Minister Palace, built in the kingdom era too but rebuilt.. after an arson in the mid-70s ). Halfway between those two (much closer to the ancient Prime Minister palace than to the Queen's palace, though), the sixteen pilars of Justice Palace. The latter is quite difficult to spot but it's there.

One reason I took this picture was that when passing across the hill, I noticed this was the one which still had the most *traditional* beige-ochre-carmin roofed-houses amongst the many hills the city counts. It was simply that reason. Then, checking the pictures in my driver, I suddenly noticed one feature I hadn't spotted while snapping. There is a line that divides the hill in two, an upper part that has few dwellings and a lower part which is more crowded and less greener. Why is that ? I don't know. i'll have to investigate but it sure intrigues me.

Also, it was the rarest view where you could spot the three palaces on the same picture.

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Should there be some reason ?

See this picture ? Bookstalls in Ambohijatovo have become, in a few months, my favourite spot in Tana. Not that you'd find me there everyday. Still... I use to anticipate my stall raids with great expectation and excitement. Each time I go there, pretty sure I'd come home loaded with one or more dusty books in my bag.

I love going there, not only for the books, also for the ambience and God! how time flies when you're busy delving into those shelvings. Sometime, I easily forget the hassle of the city. Yet, the stalls are located in Ambohijatovo, near the very rond-point where car drivers try to be polite and follow instructions given by the policeman. The latter, in his turn, tries to regulate the traffic. How funny, though, that the more he tries, the bigger the mess. Have this feeling, shared by many, that policemen who try to rule traffics just make it worse. lol Better leaving it in the hands of aggressive and unpolite drivers, they'd eventually find agreement on how to figure it out. That's what you see when you stand on the pavement near the stalls. Now, you'd ignore the hooting, the noise once you reach the center of this surface that accomodate the stalls.

My second favourite: La Haute. This area up the hill where Lapan'ny Manjakamiadana lies and that it dominates at its pinnacle. I know it's not true but I like to think that air is purer there above. lol

Then, restaurants and cafés :-) They abund in Tana although I've only sampled a few. To be honest, I already have my faves there, where I return regularly... and am eager to discover new ones, when my Countryside-cum-Nature-girl life allows me. Because, the latter takes much of my time and is where my preference goes.

Air pollution, noise pollution, this feeling of "too-much-crowd" as one walks downtown, this is not for my everyday life. They don't deter me from going there. Yet, I like to carefully plan my days in the city to do many things and lessen commuting. In a word, I love Tana, esp. for the book stalls, the views from up there, the cafés and restaurants. :-)

Now, buildings, concrete, flash cars, wreck cars, street urchins, crowd, hootings, mad driving style... Tana is not only about those. It has some green spaces. Some, like the Tsimbazaza zoo, are in the city whilst others deserve your taxi ride (some water near the airport). Those greeneries use to lure me too, but not as much as the crazy city. I guess, for one reason, I live in the countryside located kilometers North of Tana. Ricefields, hills, green, green, green... So greeneries are not what I look for inthe city. Now had I to live the urban life, I'd see it differently. Feel myself lucky.

Oh well, should there be reasons to why I love this city anyway. The more I talk about Tana, the contradictory my reasoning becomes. It's still my favourite city in Madagascar and amongst the many cities I've seen (and for some, lived in) so far.

Lapan'i Manjakamiadana (Queen's palace)

Lapan'i Manjakamiadana (: Manjakamiadana palace), or Queen's palace

It is on top of Antananarivo hill (ex- Analamanga hill, ex- Analamasina hill).

It used to be the home of Madagascar's Kings. Radama I was the first "Madagascar King" to have inhabited there. It used to comprehend a complex with many buildings and specific areas, as well as cemetaries. All of that: burnt ! except for the protestant temple, I was told.

The Rova (Royal complex) was burnt in 1995, in the night of Nov 5 to Nov 6. The mystery wrapping this atrocity has never been solved. The government, the one from 1996 to 2001, led by ex- Pdt Ratsiraka, has been reluctant to make the necessary research, so has been the one who was there in 1995-96.

For the Palace being located on top of the Analamanga hill, it had been, for centuries, a landmark of the city. When they tore it down, one had to re-study the view again. You feel something is missing. That was for the visual effects. Fortunately, the facades having been spared (see tlog)

At meantime, a commission was in charge of the reconstruction works. Bad management, robbery slowed down the works... In the latest years, the slow process of reconstruction is continuing (re-launched).

Historical artefacts, antiques and documents within the complex paid the toll of 1995 arson. Only 20% of them were spared. A museum nearby displays the artefacts which had been rescued from fires. The museum is located in Lapan' Andafiavaratra (Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony 's Palace).

Besides, and probably even more important, the Rova used to be an important element of the nation unity. Tearing it down was aiming at dividing the nation. So it was resented by the millions of Malagasy people. For the complex containing the mortal remains of Madagascar Kings, Malagasy people - for whom ancestral worship and veneration of the remains of the dead are important- saw the destruction of the royal tombs as spiritual as well. The soul of the nation was burnt to ashes.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Vivid city, pittoresque setting with nice markets. Hopeful and hospitable people
  • Cons:...
  • In a nutshell:Pittoresque setting, nicely chaotic city. A city where not to rush in... seize the atmosphere, get lost but keep some common sense
  • Intro Updated Mar 5, 2008
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Reviews (71)

Comments (44)

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    The silk looks beautiful and I love your pics of the Malagasy style buildings. Been wanting to go to Madagascar for a long time - my Aussie Dad was passionate about a Rotary water project he was in charge of there.

  • Jul 27, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    i'll be at tana the first two weeks of august, are there some concerts in this period?

  • Norali's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2010 at 2:00 AM

    Late rain, very probably. Compared to other years' summers. After Tana, what's next ?

  • Ramonq's Profile Photo
    Mar 14, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    I'm in Tana now until 20 March. Love the city, but it does rain a lot here.

  • Feb 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    This is the place that has the best reputation for Indian food in Tana. It's consistently good and authentic. When people have their "Best samosas" or "best brochettes" conversation, this place always comes up as a winner.

  • mvtouring's Profile Photo
    Jul 14, 2009 at 3:29 AM

    What a great page, thanks for the wonderful info. I still need to make my way up the coast and visit Madagascar ;-)

  • monina_c's Profile Photo
    Apr 29, 2008 at 8:59 PM

    hey norali! :D same school of thought here! "if there is a traffic problem, a traffic cop caused it!" there are also a lot of hole in the wall second hand bookshops here! nice page, thanks for sharing!

  • Oct 9, 2007 at 4:58 PM

    I was in Cameroon a while back. Two little boys begging - and I thought, aha! do they just want money or are they really hungry. Turns out they were really hungry :-( Please give them food!

  • sachara's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2007 at 10:22 AM

    Norali, it was great to read your very interesting page of Tana. So much excellent information ! Thank you !! Still four days to go and I will see it with my own eyes.

  • Ekahau's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2007 at 4:54 PM

    on the beautiful purple Decembers with the Jacaranda trees in bloom.

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