Known as Tamatave until 1979, Toamasina is Madagascar’s biggest harbour and commercial centre. It is located in the east of the island.
The city was built around the port which served as a trading post for European merchants in the eighteenth century. Toamasina was taken by the Merina king Radama I in 1817 who expanded the port. After it was taken by French colonists in the late nineteenth century, they used the port as a base from which to conquer the interior. A battle between the Merina army and the French fleet was fought here. In 1927 Toamasina was decimated by a hurricane. Since rebuilt, it over the twentieth century Toamasina has developed into Madagascar’s leading commercial centre.
Toamasina is also a financial and commercial centre. Most foreign trade passes through the port. Main industries are food processing, especially rum production. Its principal exports are cloves, coffee, and vanilla. The Bazar Be market sells regional crafts including wickerwork. The city’s university was founded in 1977. Toamasina is linked to the capital by rail.
Places of Interest
The university museum exhibits precious stones and regional crafts, and hosts exhibitions of archaeology and photographs. Music and theatre productions are held at the Palais des Enfants. These include traditional Betsimsaraka dancers, Hira Gasy Theatre Companies, groups of Salegy and Kwassa Kwassa (music and dance).