In the evening sunshine it has a quality of a child’s picture book: brightly coloured houses stacked up the hillsides with mauves jacarandas and purple bougainvillea against the dark blue winter sky.
From the right place, in the right light, Antananarivo is one of the most attractive capitals in the developing world. In the evening sunshine it has the quality of a child’s picture book: brightly coloured houses stacked up the hillsides with mauve jacarandas and purple bougainvillea against the dark blue of the winter sky. Red crown-of-thorns euphorbias stand in rows against red clay walls, rice paddies are tended right up to the edge of the city, clothes are laid out on canal banks to dry, and zebu carts rumble along the roads on the outskirts of town. It’s all deliciously foreign and can hardly fail to impress the first-time visitor as he or she drives in from the airport. During the dry season the sun is hot but the air pleasantly cool, for the altitude is between 1,250m and 1,450m. Sadly, for many people this wonderful first impression does not survive a closer acquaintance. Tana can seem squalid and dangerous, with conspicuous poverty, persistent beggars and pollution from heavy traffic.