Well, I am listing it as things to do, not that you have to but only as a reminder.
Sometime, you would be so "absorbed" by the contemplation of the sights, watching sunset, the imagination triggered by the tales from the guides that you would forget to take pictures. What can I say? I may have counted many pictures I'd missed while soaking it up, being focused on something else in the environment and completely forgetting about this bloody (but very effective) camera. But.. I am not regretting anything.
Could be the picture of a typical countryside village with those red-earth houses forming a cluster. This is the setting of countryside in Imerina region. The ochre-mud square houses, with thatched roofs. Also, I've read on the net that Madagascar woud be the only country in Africa to have those traditional square houses, elsewhere, they are reported to be round. Pic2
Also, only in Imerina region (corresponds to, nowadays Antananarivo province as for this province, the area of the Merina clan corresponds to the region of its province), you would find tradional mud huts/ houses. In the other Malagasy regions, walls are of vegetal material (timber in neighbouring Fianarantsoa region, wood, woodbarks ...).
Could be pictures of some fauna (lizzards on the rock, papango flying above your head & trying to spot some prey in the plains and in the primary forest of Ambohimanga... good eyes they have those papango!).
Sometimes, the contemplation, the conversation may come to a halt. The silhouette of some beautiful critter passes by, you eagerly follow on which plant she will land. Your attention has shifted... towards this little being... She gave me a favour, paused on a nearby shrub. Long enough to enable me to grab the camera and snap... The result is this first picture.
OK, views from a hill are not your main interest in visiting the Royal compound. Still, the ambience, the serenity, the design of the place would invite you to take time to reflect. Be it while contemplating the views, while watching some sunset, while imagining the extent of work accomplished by those kings uniting the Merina kingdom then Madagascar (a country as 20 times as big as Belgium, two times and a half bigger than the UK), listening to the guide (side note: the best guide I've ever seen within my 3-week-hols in 2005 was the one that showed us Ambohimanga)... be it standing on the Rock to jauge the importance of rice cultivation in Malagasy culture.
Was standing on the Rock when I noticed this curved patchwork.. Reflection started.
The curvy lot resembles a road.. but where it leads you to ?
Resembles a wrap but of which texture is it ? Silk, cotton, organza ?
Resembles a green river bed, still I cannot dive in to swim.
And what about this gigantic moss patch ? Yes! a moss patch is what it resembles most... a moss with many shades of green. Fascinating!
What can I say ? Reflecting was what I did during some time atop of the hill. And you? would you or would you let the guide rush everything ? Mine was nice, sympathetic, quite discreet when he noticed I was soaking up. I didn't ask for his name to recommend. Aaah! I am not that good at that. Next time...
[2007: Later, when a "hilltrip" is to Blue Hill, I chatted with "resident" guides on this rock. Two peasants: one trying to sell "crafts", the other trying to earn some money by pointing to you the 12 first sacred hills of the Imerina region... Both trying to lure me to the worshipping activity as on this rock is the corner where to ask for a spouse, for children (to the Kings). Funny enough, I noticed they put pressure on lonely females by telling me (many times!) it's no good a woman is alone... so I'd hire their mediation service & give them some bucks. Too bad! I use to not think it's necessarily bad a gal is alone! lol]
I guess, as many touring people, your main goal to visit the UNESCO Heritage listed Ambohimanga would not to enjoy the views. Still, if I ever manage to convince you about sitting on some rock as the main object of the roadtrip, then I would be glad. lol
After your guided tour, you should be offered to reach Ambatomiantendro rock for some views. Don't skip it.
Could simply the place you'd want after the rush, traffic jam, the hassle of urban Tana. You'd be glad standing on this rock and simply enjoy this view of the crazy city... from afar.
Could simply another romantic place where to read (like this guy in the 2nd pic was doing), to enjoy some 180° views over the plains. Sitting right in the middle of the rock, you'll be facing the remote crowded hill of Tana.. so far. At your left, far far at your left, some planes... Yes! the Ivato airport. At your right, pic3 & views on "neighbouring" hills such as the royal city Ambohitrabiby.
Could simply the place where to chill out (no alcohol drinks once you pass the gate of the royal complex).
Since this is the main reason, for many, to visit Ambohimanga, how couldn't I talk about one of the two World Heritage sites that are located in Madagascar ?
Only listed as my fourth tip since I found it helpful to remind you about the previous ones. ;-)
"The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga consists of a royal city and burial site, and an ensemble of sacred places. It is associated with strong feelings of national identity, and has maintained its spiritual and sacred character both in ritual practice and the popular imagination for the past 500 years. It remains a place of worship to which pilgrims come from Madagascar and elsewhere."
This a description taken from UNESCO website. Rovan' Ambohimanga is classified in UNESCO World Heritage.
Was standing next to Nampoina's sacred pool when I snapped this one. At your left, the dark wood of Mahandrihono, "Nampoina's Hut" then clockwise, the building that eventually served as summer residence to the Queens (latest to reign) and a Tranomasina/ Tranomanara: a building that used to be, above all, noblemen tombs. In front, a fenced patch where used to be buried some Kings and Queens before Galliéni (French gouvernor) transferred all royal corpses to Manjakamiadana Rova and built a canteen, a kitchen on the plot of land where Andrianampoinimerina and Andriambelomasina were buried (!).
The complex comprehends pools, so useful for the customary Fandroana (royal baths - see local custom tips), a zebu park, corners where pilgrims still worship (royal) ancestors. It is still noticeable how much Malagasy people feel the need to ask for blessings, help to achieve their goals in life (wealth, progeniture, success).. Here and there, you'd find, while visiting the royal compounds, pilgrims bringing sweets, honey, flowers, toaka gasy (our traditional rotgut) and depositing those wares on corners. Also, in Nampoina's Hut, some would head to North-East corner to talk to the King (his "spirit"), ask for blessings...etc.. for this corner being sacred in our cosmogony.
The most original building, for me, for it being very simple considering the status of this great king. Originally it was made from palissandre wood (a precious wood in Madagascar, solid and elegant), everything was kept except the tiles.
King Andrianampoinimerina (: the "King which is dear to Merina people's hearts") was the greatest king we had. He uttered this sentence : "Ny ranomasina no valamparihiko", meaning "The sea is my border".
At that time (reigned from 1787 to 1810), neighbouring tribes used to "kidnap" persons from Merina region to sell them as slaves for both foreign merchants (Arabs then, later on, French who kept on doing this commerce though slavery was newly abolished) and coastal areas' kingdoms. The Merina area risking to be "emptied" soon by the process, he then began conquering other kingdoms in Madagascar to create a pacified state and stop the kidnapping of Merina persons for slave trading. Also, I insist, it was done not only by conquering areas, there were numerous political alliances with other tribes and weddings also.
Prior the process to unify Madagascar, the Merina Kingdom was created (merged) and consolidated (enhancements of economy, justice system, rice cultivation, creation of markets...). By doing so, he promoted peace within a state that had known fratricidal wars. Same system: conquests, alliances (Nampoina had twelve wives - some were unions for political motives).
Unifying Madagascar: this pacification and union project was fully completed by his son, Radama I, who instaured in several cities Merina army headquarters, also to counter foreign attacks (French namely) by controlling the coastal boarders. We'll see that it was not sufficient since some kingdoms and dukedoms in Madagascar had preferred to give their areas under French control: they served as breaches into the dam....
That's a summary of Nampoina's achievements.
This "Hut" is amongst the oldest surviving buildings. The guides will not only show the modest interior but explain about Malagasy cosmogony.