Araben' ny Fahaleovan-tena (downtown)
Antananarivo doesn't have big avenues but Araben' ny Fahaleovantena is where it happens. It departs from Analakely and ends with "Gara", the Soarano train station. It follows Araben' ny 26 Jiona that runs through Analakely, starting Ambohijatovo.
Analakely is packed with permanent markets. Typical scenery of off-white parasols, perched precariously on old tyre rims. They used to shade the vendors. In the past, there used to be the big Friday market: the Zoma. Still, municipality had to tear it down since there couldn't be any safety in there anymore. This used to be #1 must-see activity in Tana and was reported to be the biggest open-air market in the world. A parking lot has replaced the Zoma, to the contentment of the drivers. Remnants of the Zoma in Analakely are permanent markets held on a much smaller surface. The Pavillons had remained and it’s still nice browsing there. Although you would find there stalls selling handicraft like wooden gameboards, statues, gem stones, leather goods, woven items, spices, vanilla... they do not display that many items nor choice. For handicraft, check it at specialized markets “Arts Malgasy” on Route digue. Any taxi driver would lead you there.
In Ambohijatovo, up the avenue, near the second-hand bookstalls (my favourite spot in Tana), lies a smaller market where men in the street (women, namely) use to shop for vegs, fruits, meat… A place where to catch a glimpse on what we use to prepare our meals, at least local produce, and on daily lives of housewives.
Along Araben’ny Fahaleovan-tena, there are shops, eateries. Mmmm... These arcades house two of the best ice-cream parlours in Tana, Blanche-Neige happens to be my favourite (right side if facing the station). Go there, you wouldn't regret it. You would find there both the young things sipping juices, having the ice-cream combinations. [See my restaurant tips]
Also, don't be surprised if you see skateboarders, rollerskaters on the avenue. Kids plays in there, not exactly on the avenue but in the parking lots edging the avenue. For it being the longest, it can hold various processions, ranging from Mini Austin collectioneurs to demonstrations through Beetle parade.
Scanned postcard (photo J. Fernandes) Fondest memory ? Blanche Neige and Shalimar (Indo-Pakistanese snack).
Men at work... ;-)
It's nearly a joke:
Once again, I was waiting for my Mum in the Hotel Colbert area when I saw this man wandering in the street with his tall frangipani bouquet. I would have followed him around blindfolded: I use to love this intoxicating frangipani fragrance and it spread out in the street... So, I was contemplating his frangipani bunch when I saw him heading to the other man on the photo, asking for something to tie the bunch up. I had a smile watching the scene. And a thought: "That's men at work, a flower vendor asking to a carwash person some thin rubber band or raphia string to hold flowers together..." Even funnier, the latter was washing a car with a bucket and a spounge. He hid himself, behind a pilar but in front of the car, from the police nearby since it is now forbidden to wash cars in the streets like he was doing (they enforced the law weeks before my arrival or so I understood from what I was told). He would be caught and fined. It's nearly silly.. but this is something that amazed me !
Men at work: One is lost and the other would be caught.
More seriously, Tana is full of those: people in the streets, with small jobs, trying to make a living from the little they have...
-"Oh friend, don't you have any string for me to hold these flowers together ?"
-"Get out of here ! I am hastening washing this car. Ya know, the police is browsing around"...
The illegal carwasher could have finished it smoothly and not worrying about being caught. Well, I couldn't tell them but afterwards, I was strolling around, admiring what I consider as one of nicest buildings and compounds in Tana: Ambohitsorohitra compound. It is where our President has his office, he kept the same office of his former years as Mayor of CUA (Communauté Urbaine d’Antananarivo, basically, Tana Municipality). Not far from Ambohitsorohitra, I found the policemen chatting and playing cards with streetvendors who were selling peanuts. Not too close neither that far from our two men on the picture.. but leisurely busy.
Men at work: One is lost and the other would be caught and the policemen are playing cards with streetstall keepers.
That's Tana: very surreal sometimes.
Men use to wear malabary
This cotton tunique is known as "Malabary". It is worn by Highlands men (Tana suroundings, Fianarantsoa as well). They wear a kind of tunique in a stripped or checked cotton material with pants and a hat.
Circumcised kids wear it as well while waiting for the "wound" to heal up. Quite tough days for boys since circumcision is done in winter so as to ease cicatrization. Though it's freezing and they just wear Malabary without pants (!) till full cicatrization!!!
During reburial (famadihana), descendants of re-buried ancestors use to wear uniform as well. In many cases, men in the family wear a Malabary of the same fabric. Women use to wear skirts of another fabric. Kids may wear same uniforms according to their gender as well.
Business code in Tana requires business suit or more Westernized clothing, no business wears Malabary although you may find some wearing Malabary on week-end days and of course for traditional festivities.
On the picture, this pousse-pousse puller of Antsirabe wears a Malabary. Since it's cold there, he seems to wear another piece of cloth with it.
I had a nice surprise while meeting Indian Vter suri in Brussels in Nov 2003, he was wearing his kurta (spelling ?) which resembles our Malabary a lot.
The place to be
This is the main sport stadium in town. It uses to host major (by Malagasy standards) events, the most important being JOI, Jeux des Iles (de l'Ocean Indien, that is).
Sometimes, Madagascar hosts some regional meetings, especially football. Then, Mahamasina stadium should be the center of action.
Any recommendation to not build above the line ?
It was one morning on my way to Antsirabe. I noticed that, amongst the many hillsides this city comprehends, this one was the one which still has a majority of those ochre/beige/carmin narrow houses on. Elsewhere, there are great mixes of European style houses and traditional Merina houses. Why is that ? I don't know. My answer would be the same if you asked me why there was this kind of separation line below which buildings abunded whilst above, it's all green and sparse. I find it very unusual.
Well, my guess is that it was on this hillside that Ranavalona I, a fierce Queen of Madagascar, would throw the bodies of her presumed enemies (some of relatives of her husbands included) and that from there, one doesn't really want to build houses up there for some having found some human bones on their terrains. This is a guess. We learnt at school, and it's in all history book, that this ws customary under Ranavalona I reign. Now, was it this very one or another hill, I have to investigate.
I know the front cliff that ends in Mahamasina and looks on Lac Anosy (see next picture) was known to be the place from where she threw the first Christians. That is known but I heard about another cliff that served the same purpose too. This last fact is less known though.
This neat line is for sure intriguing, isn't it ?
This is the hillside East of the Royal compound, if I recall it well.