A glimpse at the thousand city – Antananarivo the capital

Now that you had a sneak peek of the conversation in malagasy, you are ready to begin your trip to Madagascar, otherwise click here.

In this article, you will get a glimpse of the city of Antananarivo, also known as Tana, and its surroundings.

One should distinguish the province of Tana and the city of Tana where most international flights to Madagascar land – a bit like the province and the city of Quebec or New York. The majority of foreign embassies and consulates are located in Tana. It is still useful to know that there are flights arriving in other cities including Diego Suarez, Nosy Be, Majunga, Tulear, Fort Dauphin, Tamatave, and St. Marie.

Historic name

The names of towns and villages in Madagascar usually have specific meanings. They are given after a person, an event, or any reason related to the history, society or the local culture in general. Antananarivo meaning literally means “city of a thousand”. This refers to the thousands of soldiers who guarded the city at the time of a Malagasy King named Andrianjaka on the seventeenth century. Andrianjaka and his army dislodged the Vazimba (name given to the first Malagasy ever known) who had first settled there.

The first inhabitants of the city began to populate the hills where the royal palace was installed. Analamanga Hill was the birthplace of the now modern city. Valleys and low mountains were subsequently developed to become now the suburbs more wider and less polluted as it is in all big cities in the world.

Antananarivo is also known as Tana, Imerina or Analamanga.

Tana in figure

Tana is located in the central highlands of Madagascar with an average elevation of 1300 m. It has a tropical altitude climate with a cool and very dry season with an average minimum of 10 ° C, and a hot and rainy season with a maximum annual average of 27 ° C.

Tana is the largest city of Madagascar, with about 90km2 surface, and the most populous with a little less than 2 million citizens. It has 6 districts and 162 neighborhoods unevenly populated since the average density of the population range from 13 habitants/m2 to 25,500 habitants/m2.

A typical “Southern” big city 

Tana is the economic, political and administrative capital of Madagascar. Reflected in its urban landscape with residential and commercial buildings that are more impressive and modern. The street traffic jams during rush hours in the busiest districts may keep you there up 2 hours depending on the season. Add to this the cacophony of street vendors on the sides of the roads shouting to get clients, the bicycles and rickshaws carrying all kinds of goods that squeeze between cars, the students coming from schools, the pedestrians walking inside the street limits … At first, this may seem stressful or annoying. But think again, there is the opportunity to observe and experience the real social and cultural dynamics of Malagasy people that is patience, contact with people, nonverbal communication, tolerance and respect for others … in short, the harmony in the chaos … with the exception that proves the rule, of course!

Transportation by the system D

Several lines of road-dike have been recently developed to decongest the tanarivian traffic . However, so far, the usual mess with transport, the absence of effective regulation of traffic and the continuing increase of the number of cars undermine efforts to improve the situation. In fact, one should know that traffic lights are nonexistent in Madagascar, even in the capital. In addition, globalization and the opening of international trade has increasingly facilitated the importation of used cars from neighboring countries and from some European countries, mainly France.

One can see in the streets of Tana very aged cars, all brands. The most common are Peugeot, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Renault and Mercedes. This applies both to private cars and the public local and intercity transportation. You probably have heard about the Malagasy system D – D as in débrouillardise in french meaning resourcefulness – which can give a second, third or umpteenth life to old cars too polluting and too dangerous to travel in their country of origin. In contrast, new vehicles, excluding international development projects cars, are commonly luxury models, limited edition or just the latest generation.

Tourism in Tana

Tana attractions include a museum of art and archeology as well as an astronomical observatory. The latter, located on the hill Ambohidempona in the area of the University of Antananarivo, was the first French observatory in the southern hemisphere on 1889. It is possible to visit the museum during the week on office hours.

There is also a botanical and zoological park at Tsimbazaza. The park gives an overview of the diversity and uniqueness of the fauna and flora of Madagascar. In addition to the regular visits for tourists and scientists, this park hosts regular educational tours for schoolchildren from across the province Tana and even Madagascar.

If you love family outdoor activies, not far from the capital, a thirty minute drive, Croc’Farm is the place for you. You will find the botanical garden and crocodile farm. You can even taste the kebabs of this lizard (!). They are open every day from 9AM to 5PM except on holidays.

Other popular attractions include Lemurs’Park at the hill of Antongona with its top two royal palace turned into museums, the necropolis and “Tranomanara” of Ambohimalaza (tombs surmounted by a house), the landscapes and sensational scenery along National Highway 2 to Tamatave, and the leisure and crafts complex Analamanga Park.

The less formal recreational

A less formal way to discover the capital of Madagascar and its people would be out of the town on weekends, a few minutes drive normally. “Mini-fairs” are organized specifically for local townspeople to come off a bit from the humdrum of the city. Games and amusements for children and for adults are organized. One can taste the famous “masikita” – skewer of beef or kebabs – and other grills, domestic beer, the THB – although potential competitors of it have appeared – and many other treats and distractions. This concept has become so popular so that several all year long recreational villages have developed in the peripheral regions of Tana. The premises are already fond of them, and now you are informed too!

Do not miss!

Public markets are a MUST in Tana. There is firstly the market of Zoma (literally the friday market) better known as Analakely. One could admire its pavilions and arcades along the legendary Independence Avenue which became a place of rendezvous for Tana’s nightlife. Just nearby is the Pochard market with its stands criss crossed by paths usually busy especially on weekends. There is also the market of Mahamasina that the neighbourhood is also known by the Palais des Sports et de la Culture. Mahamasina market is specialized in products from local industries. There is also the Behoririka market, the mall for Chinese products from clothing and shoes to technology and trendy gadgets. There are also the Indo-Pakistani Tsaralalàna market, the market for fabrics Isotry, the market for second-hand goods in 67 hectares, etc… There is a lot more to discover!

We hope to have given you a taste of what you can find in the Madagascar capital with this article. Feel free to leave your comments or ask questions. If you need more information once there, you can contact our local partners here or Regional Tourist Office Analamanga 1st Floor, Building FJKM Analakely – Staircase Ranavalona – 101 Antananarivo

If you are interested to expand our articles on the latest tourism news from Madagascar or you simply want to write an article from your trip to Madagascar, please send your text to info@voyagiste-madagascar.com and specify  your name or nickname with your e-mail. We reserve the right to select texts suitable for online publication.


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