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Revealing the majesty of the Rova Ambohimanga: A UNESCO World Heritage site in the spotlight

Revealing the majesty of the Rova Ambohimanga: A UNESCO World Heritage site in the spotlight

Madagascar is a large island nation located in the Indian Ocean. It is known for its diverse wildlife, including lemurs and chameleons. The country has a unique culture that is influenced by African, Asian, and European traditions. Madagascar’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, particularly rice cultivation. The island also has stunning natural landscapes such as rainforests, beaches, and reefs.

The Highlands

Ambohimanga, known as the “blue hill,” was once the capital of a principality in Madagascar. It was on this hill that Andrianampoinimerina, a future king, conceived his vision to unify the country. He often visited Ambohimanga even after moving his capital to Antananarivo. The hill became the first sacred hill in Imerina and remained off-limits until 1897 when the colonial administration relocated the royal remains to Antananarivo. This move aimed to break the moral resistance associated with these symbols.

The Seven Gates of Ambohimanga

The village had seven gates in its walls. The main gate, called Ambatomitsangana (upright stone), was the best-preserved one and faced east. It had a lookout post on top and was flanked by a massive stone disc that used to block the entrance. Similar discs were once used to protect all fortified villages in the Highlands. Each of these discs was about 40.50 meters in diameter, 30 centimeters thick, and weighed around 12 tons. It took twenty soldiers working together every morning and evening to move it out of the way.

The Rova Enclosure

The Rova’s tall wall was built in 1847 by Ranavalona I. The stones are held together with a mix of lime and egg whites.

Ranavalona Manjaka « Sovereign Ranavalona »

The bronze cannon at Fidasiana has the initials “RM” engraved on it.

Mahandrihono « Those who know how to wait »

The simple house was once the home of Andrianampoinimerina, marked by a white marble plaque. The walls and central pillar are made of rosewood, supporting the roof. Inside, the king’s personal belongings like weapons, containers, drums, and talismans are kept. There is also a large bed where he used to receive his twelve wives in turn.


The old Rova on the hill was destroyed by exploding gunpowder barrels on the day of Ranavalona I’s funeral.

Public Places

– The kings made laws and judged people at the small Ambarangotina square.
– The Fidasiana esplanade, higher up near the Rova, hosted big gatherings and feasts.

Ranavalona II’s two pavilions

The two palisander buildings, connected by a balustrade balcony, were built in 1871. One of the buildings contains a courtroom and a large living room on the ground floor and the queen’s chamber upstairs. The furniture is from that time period, supplemented with lavish gifts from foreign monarchs.

The queen’s chamber is considered sacred and many visitors leave prayers for the late queen within the furniture. The second building, where the queen held ministerial council meetings, is known as Trano Fitaratra or “house of glass” due to its glass windows on the first floor. These windows were imported from Europe by an Englishman named Parrett in 1862.

Omby Sikily

Andrianampoinimerina chose the Zebu as a symbol. All royal cattle had a specific ear mark and had to be reddish in color. Harming a royal ox was considered an attack on the state.


– On the Rova heights, there were two sacred rock pools.
– One was used as a bathtub by Andrianampoinimerina and the other as a swimming pool by Ranavalona I.
– Water was drawn from the sacred Amparihy lake to the north of the village and changed daily.

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