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An update from Evaneos

What to bring back from Madagascar

I am not the sort of traveller who likes to buy souvenirs. On the other hand, I love bringing back little pieces that really represent the country I have visited: newspaper cuttings, labels off locally produced products, leaves from local trees, the logo of the train company, some children's drawings, or a quick sketch that I have made, nothing glamorous and really nothing at all valuable.

On my way to Madagascar I realised that this country had a hold on the imagination of my family and friends, even those among them who never travel. I wanted to be able to bring back some small but typical things that would really show them something about this unique island.

Here is my list of presents, and perhaps it may inspire those of you who have only thought about bringing back vanilla pods, local rum cocktails or shells from Toliara market...

A bag of baobab seeds

These little grey seeds will teach you how to be patient. You have to leave them soaking in water for a whole week and then find a long pot to help them develop their powerful roots. Patience? Even at three years old the little baobab will look frail and thin, and when its stalk loses its leaves you're going to be convinced that your plant is not happy in its new environment. Then, just when you have given up waiting, the baobab has a sudden growth spurt and takes its proper shape...


Sun dried jujube fruit

The little, purply red jujube fruit look like West Indian cherries, a sort of bitter wild cherry that Malagsy children snack on after school. You can buy them from markets or roadside stalls careful they are properly dried. The ones that I bought were not fully dry and unfortunately rotted in my suitcase.

Fair Trade jams

The Institute Saint Joseph's jams are made by handicapped Manakaran children and are sold all over the island. Lychee, pineapple and coriander or guava and passion fruit are all easily slipped into a corner of your suitcase, if you can wait til you get home to open them.

Original photographs by Pierrot Men

An internationally famous artist, you can visit his studio at Fianarantsoa and become lost in his photographs. He is nicknamed the "Madagascan Doisneau" (after a famous French photographer) and loves photographing the people of his island. He has a truly humanist view of his models and through them shows us the myriad Madagascan ways of life.

Some other ideas for your Madagascan gift box:

  • zebu horn salad servers
  • Antemoro paper, which is made from wild mulberry tree bark scattered with fresh flowers picked from near the town of Ambalavao.
  • saka-saka, a sort of soup of cassava leaves, sold in tins.
  • little cars made from recycled materials, bought from Antsirabe craftsmen.
  • baobab or lychee flower honey
  • essential oils, like Madagascan helichrysum, white ginger lily or cinnamon.
  • wild pepper and pink peppercorns
  • coffee, bought from small producers on the east coast.


Aline Gernay
6 contributions
Updated 29 September 2015
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