A historical centre and Madagascar’s second port, Mahajanga is located in the most inaccessible western part of the island.
The eighteenth century Sakalava Empire originated in the area, and Mahajanga was made its capital. Sakalavan King Andriamandisoarivo chose it as a prime position for commercial exchange. Merchandise included slaves, weapons, precious stones, textiles and spices. The town was occupied by Arab explorers before coming under the control of French colonists in 1895.
The economy relies on shipping and fishing and the cultivation of cotton, tobacco, corn, nuts and rice. The main industries are oil, textiles, sugar, cement and metallurgy. Baobabs forests, scattered islands, natural reserves and lakes and caves around a natural bay make it a major tourist resort. The city is accessible by air from Nosy Be and Antsiranana and by air and bus from the capital.
Places of Interest
The old town retains the architecture of the eighteenth century Arab occupation, and there are numerous mosques and churches. The three major markets are Tsaramandroso, Mahabibo and Bazar Be.
The town has several protected areas. The main reserves are Marotandrano, Ambohijanahary, Bemarivo, Kasijy and the Tampoketsa of Analamaitso. There are three natural reserves in the surrounding area, Namoroka, Ankarafantsika and the calcareous hills of Marovoay, although entry is restricted.