Wandering the streets of Tana without my camera

“Don’t take your camera out of the hotel”, MG, another traveller at my guesthouse, warned me.  “It will get stolen.  Last week two women who were staying here had their cameras and money stolen in broad daylight”. He shrugs.  “It’s never violent and you can’t really blame the Malagasy. Last week I also saw a man pick up a worm off the street and eat it. People are desperate here.  If I had to eat worms for dinner I would steal your camera too”.

In March of 2009, a former disc jockey initiated a coup d’etat in Madagascar.  Western governments denounced the coup and cut off aid to the country.  Madagascar is now ranked by some sources as having the worst economy in the world and it is estimated that 77% of its population lives in poverty.

I arrived in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, last Friday.  Despite the poverty, the city is beautiful and the people are friendly.  I can’t decide if I am in Europe, Asia, or Africa.  There are baguettes and chocolate croissants for sale on every corner.  Herds of zebu crowd the intersections. There are cobblestone streets. Coffee is served with sweet and condensed milk.  People smile and greet me with salaama.  I loved it immediately.

I took MG’s advice, though, and left my camera in my hotel room.  So I only have one picture of Antananarivo, taken from the hotel balcony.

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