Antananarivo or Tananarive is the capital of Madagascar. It is the largest city and is its administrative, communications, and economic center. The city is located in Antananarivo Province, and is also known by its French name Tananarive or by its colloquial short-hand form Tana. It is the trade center for a productive agricultural region, whose main crop is rice. Its manufactures include food products (especially meat), beverages, cigarettes, and textiles.
The city was founded about 1625 by king Andrianjaka. It takes its name (the City of the Thousand) from the number of soldiers Andrianjaka assigned to guard it. In the 17th century, King Andrianjaka's thousand men conquered the hill of Analamanga, on which Rova, the royal palace, was later built. Rova is the highest point of the city. The Imerina (Imerina was once a kingdom with the seas for limits) kings unified Madagascar under their rule and established Antananarivo as the capital city of their kingdom.
Prince Ramboasalama later known as King Andrianampoinimerina (the prince wished by Imerina), was appointed king of Ambohimanga (an archeological site located in Madagascar) in 1787. He sized Antananarivo in 1794 and gave the city its current name. King Andrianampoinimerina established the "twelve sacred Imerina hills", each of them being ruled by one of his twelve spouses. After having pacified the rest of the country, the king modernized his capital city and organized the economic development of the country. He was succeeded by his son Radama I, who transferred the capital city from Ambohimanga to Antananarivo. The former capital city kept a status of sacred city.
Until 1869 the city’s buildings were made of wood or rushes, but even then it possessed several timber palaces. The city has now been rebuilt with stone and brick. In 1895, the city was captured by the French and incorporated into their Madagascar protectorate. During the French era, Antananarivo was renamed Tananarive and completely reorganized.
Since then good roads have been constructed, trees have been planted and gardens formed in various parts of the city giving it a bright and attractive appearance. Water is obtained from springs at the foot of the hill. The city is guarded by two forts built on hills to the east and south-west respectively.
The city has several tourists’ attractions that include: Rova where there are magnificent views overlooking the city, coupled with majestic ruins of the palace, the zoo at Tsimbazaza and the reptile house among others. Antananarivo is home of the University of Madagascar and the Collège Rural d'Ambatobe.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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