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Madagascar: Rova Ambohimanga

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Rova Ambohimanga | Madagascar | Africa

[Visited: May 2017]

After the crowds, noise and pollution of Antananarivo, the village of Ambohimanga radiates peace and tranquillity. The taxi brousse leaves us right at the Ambatomitsanaga, a traditional gateway with a huge stone disk, called vavahady. It would be rolled by twenty soldiers to either open or close the gate. From here, we follow a stone path leading up the Rova. We pass the Ambavahaditsiombiomby, believed to be the most ancient of gateways of the Rova, consisting of boulders through which you can walk. Higher up, we find carved wooden doors, with the Rova depicted, as well as a zebu head with horns carved out of stone. Around the corner, we reach the Fidasiana-Bevato esplanade, an open space under the shade of enormous sacred aviavy trees. We find zebu horns attached to the trunk of some trees: left here by pilgrims to this culturally and spiritually important site.

Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): The lowest gateway of the Rova of Ambohimanga: the Ambatomitsanaga

Stone stairs lead to yet another stone gateway, with some twists and turns. We are inside the Mahandrihono compound, the best preserved section of the Rova of Ambohimanga. There is a watchtower, and a pen where sacred zebus would be kept, before they were sacrificed on special occasions. Stone stairs lead to another gateway. Ahead of us, we see tombs containing the remains of Merina royals. On our left rises the dark Mahandrihono palace, constructed of rose wood. We step in with our right foot first. The high roof is supported by an enormous pole. There are several items on display like weapons and drums, and a bed on stilts. We leave this humble palace backwards, as is tradition. Next to the Mahandrihono palace, we find the summer palace of Queen Ravanalona I.

Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Stairs and stone gateway with royal tombs in the background

The first and bigger one is the Fandriampahalemana, with a hall for receiving visitors at ground level, while the bedroom of the queen is on the first level, considered a sacred place by pilgrims who come here to pray. The summer palace contains European furniture, mirrors, and gifts to the queen. Attached to it is the Tranofitaratra waiting room, or house of glass. The queen used it for consultation with her ministers, and the glass on four sides allowed her to keep an eye on the surroundings. Like the mirrors in the dining room through which the queen could check that no one was poisoning her food, another sign of the vigilance of the queen against possible adversaries. Behind the palaces stand the tombs of the royals, and a little further, basins used as royal pools. After the royals had used them, the water was considered sacred and distributed to the people. It is interesting to see the many Malagasy groups come to visit the palace, showing their respect to this important place, to the rich history of their country before it was colonized by the French. Walking further uphill from the palace, there is a rocky outcrop which allows unobstructed views towards the south. From here, it is easy to see the Rova of Antananarivo across the rice paddies below. Having the summer palace here makes perfect sense.

Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): View of the Fandriampahalemana from the Tranofitaratra waiting room
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Gate of the Rova with stairs
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Carved and painted details of the summer palace of Queen Ranavalona I
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Stone gateway allowing a view of the watchtower
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Rova carved out of a wooden door
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Carving of zebu head out of stone
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Zebu horns left by pilgrims on an aviavy tree at the Fidasiana-Bevato esplanade
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): The most ancient of gateways to Ambohimanga: Ambavahaditsiombiomby
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Row of royal tombs in the Rova of Ambohimanga
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Looking out over the Rova compound with royal pool and tombs and the Mahandrihono palace in the background
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Tranofitaratra waiting room, attached to the summer palace of Queen Ranavalona I
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): The summer palace of Queen Ranavalona I
Picture of Rova Ambohimanga (Madagascar): Looking south from the top of Ambohimanga towards Antananarivo

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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