Madagascar Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Madagascar
Handicrafts include textiles such as lamba (traditional sarong-like cloths in various designs worn by women in a number of different ways, including as a sling for carrying their babies) and silk scarves, usually made from the rough silk of an endemic silkworm rather than the smooth silk more typically found abroad.
Crocheted and embroidered table cloths are also a popular product of the northern and central areas, especially Nosy Be and Tamatave. Good quality cotton T-shirts printed with Malagasy designs and slogans are found everywhere.
Wooden items are popular, either carved or with marquetry, including chessboards and boxes. The main centre for woodwork is Ambositra on the RN7 south of the capital. Wooden musical instruments include djembe drums and the valiha (Malagasy tube zither).
Most wooden handicrafts are made from palisander, rosewood or ebony, all precious slow-growing hardwoods being logged from the forests at an alarming rate, so there is an ethical issue with buying carved souvenirs.
Jewellery includes silver bracelets and items made from zebu horn and precious stones. Polished specimens of semi-precious minerals come in endless variety, betraying the country's fascinating and diverse geology.
Toy cars and taxi-brousses handmade from recycled tins make for a particularly novel and colourful gift. They can be found on markets in the capital.
Other souvenirs include items woven from reeds, raffia, sisal and straw (including hats, bags and ornamental animals). Antaimoro paper, decorated with embedded dried flowers, is sold as sheets, notebooks, bookmarks, and even made into picture frames, purses and lampshades.
For those who prefer edible souvenirs, you will be offered vanilla pods, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and other spices; there is locally produced chocolate too (look for the Robert brand). Malagasy wine is available although the quality is mostly rather mediocre.
Note that products incorporating flora or fauna, as well as gems and minerals, often require export permits. Consult the relevant ministry kiosk at the airport.
Haggling is expected on markets, but less so in shops.
Mon-Sat 0900-1730 with closure of around two hours for lunch.
Nightlife in Madagascar
Live bands, discos and solo musicians are the key attraction. Nightclubs are a feature of even the smallest rural villages, especially in the south. Bigger discos often hold themed nights, which they advertise ahead of time on their Facebook pages. In more major tourist centres, most especially on Nosy Be, foreigners may be hassled by large numbers of local prostitutes. Many bars and restaurants also host live music, typically one night per week.
Casinos can be found in Antananarivo, Tamatave and on Nosy Be, but more often than not in the rest of the country the word casino refers to a room with a few simple arcade machines – rather than roulette, craps and other croupier-managed games.
Most main towns have a cinema and sometimes a theatre, and local touring theatre groups perform Madagascar-wide. Traditional dance troupes can also be seen. It's worth consulting the local Alliance Française (most towns have a branch) for information of forthcoming events.
In Antananarivo, the Centre Culturel Albert Camus on the main avenue in Analakely hosts all kinds of arts events, including dance performances, film screenings, art exhibitions and plays.
To find out what's on in the capital, pick up the latest edition of No Comment, Tana Planète or Sortir à Tana – all regular free booklets that can be found in hotels and restaurants.