If I were a rich man….. goes the song as I lazily stroll down the alleys of the Marché l’Artisan in Antananarivo. With money in your pocket and a 30kg weight allowance, a girl could easily lose her head over the hundreds of colourful stalls.
As I wander at will, I discover each stall displays a number at the top – something I find very useful later, when I need to re-discover the stall with the best selection of silk scarves. I don’t shop a lot usually, but when I do – I go to town. I also need a lot of time, because I can’t just buy the first thing I see, choosing instead to painfully review all the options before making my choice.
At stall 168 I’m drawn inside by the many expertly made tin cars & bikes in all varieties of colour, size & models of vehicles found in Madagaskar. I chuckle as I recognise the old Citroens you find everywhere, and the big lorries that expel their fumes behind them, when you are stuck climbing the hill & wanting to overtake. During my travels to the south, I was lucky enough to visit a family in the village of Antsirabe. Here I saw their small industry of making these fantastic models, ingeniously assembled using household waste. Tin cans, electrical wire, telephone cable and IV tubes are some of the waste products used to create these wonderfully Malagasy handicrafts. I already have a collection of taxi brousse (bush taxis), pousse-pousse and bikes, so I decline the polite offer to bargain for a good price & walk on.
The next stall sells items made from zebu horn, & I have always loved the salt & pepper pots which are shaped like turtles. You lift up the turtles shell to find a well of salt, & take the teeny spoon held firmly in the turtles mouth. Other stalls sell multi coloured scarves made from wild silk, existing nowhere else but in Madagascar, also items from crocodiles skins, hand made paper, and a multitude of raphia items from bags & baobabs, to chameleons & lemurs. My very favourite are the joyfully coloured bags in every size, shape & design. I’m on a mission to find bags for my colleagues but I could stand for an hour trying to decide the best ones. I settle on 5, the biggest ones of beach bag size costing around R90. Had I more time, I’m sure I could have negotiated a better price, but as they say – time is money, & I had run out of both.
The market displays such local creativity and talent that really makes the best use of all the materials (both waste and natural) found in Madagaskar. Some small towns or villages have totally immersed themselves in their speciality and their handicrafts. An excellent way of witnessing these crafts is to experience our 1000 Views of Madagaskar tour, where you will pass by many villages of industry.
If you have a spare afternoon in Tana and a shopping addiction, you should try to make a trip to the handicrafts market. Open on Monday – Saturday from 09h00 until 17h00, it is located about halfway between the airport & town.
No prices are shown on the products in the market, so you will have to take your sense of humour and a bright smile along with you, and negotiate with the stall holders. This really is part of the fun, and although it does take time, you will not feel any aggression or pushiness that you may have experienced in other tourism markets worldwide.
Bring enough local currency with you, as you are not able to change money at the market.