Overall Info

a) GEOGRAPHY

Madagascar is situated in the southern part of the Indian Ocean and 400 km off the Mozambique Channel.
Also, Madagascar is the fourth biggest island in the world after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo. It is 1580 km long from North to South and 590 km wide from East to West. Madagascar is covered of a total area of 592 000 square kilometer. Antananarivo (for short Tana) is its capital.

b) HISTORY

The Malagasy people began to settle in the island in 500. The Portuguese man called Diego Dias arrived in Madagascar in 1500. In 1610, it was the time for the Merina (local tribe in Tana) to reign in Madagascar; the first king of the Merina was called Andrianampoinimerina who tried to unite the island. Notice that most of the Malagasy names are very long which meant to signify something or an event that happened in their lives.
Before the arrival of foreigners including Arabs, Portuguese, English and French, the Malagasy had lived in closely related communities. They helped each other a lot in their daily lives. The “FIHAVANANA” (family ties) was the motto of the society.
Unfortunately, this has disappeared since the time of Monarchy due to social classes. Why?
Here below is a brief short story:
The French arrived in Madagascar in 1895 and began to colonize the country in 1896 ending up into different demonstrations including the Nationalist demonstration which took place in March 29th, 1947 killing lots of Malagasy citizens and also the famous insurrection of freedom in 1947.
Madagascar officially gained its independence from France in June 26th, 1960. This date is commemorated as the National Day or the Independence.

Democratic Republic of Madagascar

The list of presidents of Madagascar: from 26 June 1960 to 11 October 1972, Philibert Tsiranana is the president.         From 11 October 1972 to 5 February 1975 Gabriel Ramanantsoa is the Head of State .From 5 February 1975 to 11 February 1975, Richard Ratsimandrava, is the Head of State.                                                                                            From 12 February 1975 to 15 June 1975 Gilles Andriamahazo is Chairman of the National Military Leadership Committee .From 15 June 1975 to 30 December 1975 Didier Ratsiraka is Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Council .From 4 January 1976 to 12 September 1992 , Didier Ratsiraka, is the president . Republic of Madagascar from 12 September 1992 to 27 March 1993, Didier Ratsiraka is the president .From 27 March 1993 to 5 September 1996 Albert Zafy is the president. From 9 February 1997 to 5 July 2002 Didier Ratsiraka is the president. From 22 February 2002 to 17 March 2009, Marc Ravalomanana is the the president. From 17 March 2009 to 25 January 2014 Andry Rajoelina is the president of the High Transitional Authority .From 25 January 2014 to the present Hery Rajaonarimampianina is the president.

b) SECURITY

It is important to inform the entire world that there is no civil war in Madagascar. The war in Israel has never stopped tourists from visiting the area.
What happens in Madagascar is not any risk for the tourists because the strike is only in an area in the capital and the demonstrators have never touched even a hair of the visitors who came in Madagascar. We give a guarantee for your security during your stay in Madagascar.

d) CLIMATE

The climate in Madagascar is classified as a tropical climate.
It is featured by two main seasons:
– Dry and cool from May to October
– Hot and wet between November and April.
From late December till early April, it is a hurricane season especially in the northern and eastern part of the island. Rainfall varies greatly by each region. The western part of Madagascar is the hottest place in the nation receiving only 30 cm per year; the south has a semi-arid climate with dry season lasting up to nine months. In the East, it is the wettest area with rain average of 355 cm per year; it is hot and humid in low-lying areas. Temperatures fall down to freezing in the Highlands. In the north, it is a dry tropical climate receiving little amount of rain except in few places where rain could be abundant.
In most places in Madagascar, winter starts from early June to late August.

e) POPULATION

The population of Madagascar was originated from Indonesia and Malaysia. It is estimated at more than 21 million inhabitants. Besides, the population is composed of 18 tribes (every tribe has their own dialect) but they can understand each other using the official language known as the Malagasy. The people are also called ‘Malagasy’. It is worth mentioning that each tribe has their own specific lifestyles, customs, cultures and dances.

f) FAUNA AND FLORA

Madagascar is an exotic and a unique place in the world after the fall of Eden where naturalists could find their best chance of interests. The majority of plants and animals are found nowhere else but in Madagascar. Eighty per cent of the plants are endemic. All of the mammals are endemic, except those introduced ones.
Also, half of the birds species found in Madagascar are endemic too and over 90% of the reptiles’. Out of the seven species of Baobab in the world, Madagascar itself possesses all of those species with six endemics. Lemurs such as Indri entices the tourists and they are the most popular of all fauna since they are not found anywhere else except in Madagascar. The island has also hundreds of medicinal plants used by local and foreign pharmaceutical industries; some of those plants can cure cancer and diabetes.

g) RELIGION

The Malagasy constitution does not restrict any religious worshipping but it grants every people the freedom to worship their gods. The dominant religion is Christianity including the Catholic and Protestant. Muslims, Orthodox are also practiced; still, the majority of Malagasy worship their ancestors that they think to have great influences their lives and activities.

h) LANGUAGE

The first language is Malagasy which belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian. French language plays important roles in Madagascar and it is very widely used at school, in businesses and so on. Recently, English has become so popular in major towns too. The last national referendum held in April 04, 2007 guaranties the three main languages as the nation’s official languages including the Malagasy, French, and English.

i) HEALTH

No vaccinations are required when entering Madagascar. Anti malaria pills, hepatitis injections are highly advised though as Madagascar is a tropical country where malaria is found throughout the island especially on the east coast but it is not such vulnerable. Besides, it is essential to properly protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing clothes spanning the entire body, using mosquito nets in rooms, applying lotion and mosquito repellent, swallowing tablets the day before departure until the day of return as prescribed by your doctor.

i.i) VACCINATION

To be updated
Note that vaccination is not necessary but anti malaria, hepatitis injections are highly advised.

j) POLITICAL REGIME

Madagascar is both Republic (multi-party republic) with the Senate and the Parliament.                                                    The President: Hery Rajaonarimampianina (2014)
Prime Minister: Jean Omer Beriziky (2014)
Madagascar is governed by the 2010 Constitution. The President considered as the head of state is elected by universal suffrage for a term of five years and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by a Prime Minister who is appointed by the President. It is a bicameral Parliament consisting of the Senate (Upper House) and the National Assembly (Lower House). Two thirds of the Senators are elected by the regional assemblies, others are appointed by the President. Member of the National Assembly are elected by universal suffrage. All legislators have a term of five years. Administratively, Madagascar is divided into 22 regions.

k) ECONOMY

The economy of Madagascar is chiefly based upon exports. However, tourism plays an important role for the country’s economic sustainable development. It is also the nation’s source of income providing many job creations for the young people especially in the local community. The agriculture produces lot of produce that the island exports into the rest of the world such as coffee, vanilla, cocoa, ylang-ylang, litchi, clove, pepper, etc.
The industrial production includes cotton, tobacco, sugar canes. Madagascar has many industries that produce textile, sugar, beer known as the THB (Three Horses Beer). In regard to mining industry, Madagascar has lots of precious stones such as sapphire, chromium, graphite, mica, and the black thin sand known as the Ilminit; in few years later, Madagascar will be among the Cobalt and Nickel producing countries in the world.

l) MALAGASY CULTURE

l.1) ANCESTOR WORSHIP

The complex origin of the Malagasy people created various duties. Despite numerous notions of ethnic and clan configurations, the country uses a common language and a belief in the power of departed ancestors spread throughout the island. Although the traditional belief manifests the existence of one God, the omnipresent and omnipotent named “Andriamanitra” (The Lord scented) or that of “Andriananahary” (Lord the Creator), the Malagasy rather deify their ancestors or “Razana”. Ancestor worship is a celebration of the “science of life” because the dead are considered having a power, being defenders of life on earth, both physical and spiritual. Ancestor retains its individuality and family ties. His power is revealed through the cultural, medical, family or community «holy orders». Belief implies certain risks, such as accidents, diseases as a result of a breach of ancestor worship. Justice is imposed by them when violating a “fady” (taboo), for example. Anything the Malagasy people do in their lives, for instance building a house or a canoe, marriage, etc., the “Razana” will always be consulted. Animals (chickens, zebu) or food (rum, honey, etc…) will then be sacrificed. To give you ample example of how this practice is deeply rooted in all social strata, the theft of the national airline, Air Madagascar Boeing 747 in 1979 has led to a sacrifice of zebu to ensure long life of the craft and its passengers.

l.2) DEATH

Death for traditional Malagasy religion marks the passage of the rank of senior human called ‘Razana’ (ancestor). The latter dominate another world of new generations whom they fear and honor. Three important ceremonies accompany death. It is the funeral of “Famadihana” (exhumation or the turning of the bones) and sacrifice. Ceremonies differ according to each region.

l.3) FAMADIHANA (EXHUMATION CEREMONY)

There are several circumstances in the practice of “Famadihana.” The first is the context in which the deceased could be buried in the family tomb at the time of death. This operation is often occurring in the dry season, for health reasons, an opportunity to express their joy and to celebrate this big day. The second circumstance is essential for each deceased in the Malagasy traditional religious concept, when the living should honor their ancestors. It is believed that the ancestor is cold and therefore needs a new warm blanket for cover.
The ceremony of “Famadihana” in principle occurs several years after death. The “Mpanandro” (astrologer or shaman) determines the date and time. The body was later exhumed and then wrapped in a mat “Tsihy” to be carried by two men and a group of families, men, women and children, some singing, others playing a musical instrument. Jokes are exchanged with people. Finally, once arrived at the family tomb, the deceased is wrapped in linen “Lamba Mena” (shroud). Then, they anoint it with honey, giving gift of tobacco, rice or alcohol. Then before they return home, it is customary to turn around the tomb seven times. The entire ceremony is conducted in an atmosphere of celebration and joy, music, songs and rhythms mingled with the sacrifice of a zebu and sharing the meat. A speech in memory of the dead and the living closes the ceremony.
Sterile women can tear a piece of the old shroud and put it under her pillow or mat as a superstition hoping to make her fertile.

l.4) FUNERAL

RITES OBSERVED BY THE MERINA TRIBE

After the deceased was washed, clad and wrapped in a linen called “Lamba Mena” (piece of silk shroud) it may be exposed for some time before burial. Then the deceased is placed in a coffin and carried to the grave. Sometimes transportation is in a final round of its own land of death.

RITES OBSERVED IN MAHAFALY COUNTRIES AND ANTANDROY

The coffin is violently shaken in all directions by the team of porters, men dance while women clap their hands and other men brandish their spears. Once the deceased brought to his/her tomb and buried, a monument to his memory is raised high. The sacrifice of one or more zebu accompanies the ceremony and it can take place over several days with nightly vigils accompanied by songs and dances. The festival will conclude with a celebration in which the meat is shared among all customers. The importance of the festival is related to the wealth of the deceased and it is sometimes a herd of several tens of heads of zebu to be sacrificed. Some tombs are nicely decorated with hundreds of pairs of horns reflecting and displaying the importance and wealth of the deceased.

l.5) MALAGASY FIGHT

RINGA

Existing since the 16th century, the so-called ‘Ringa’ (wrestling) being part of Malagasy traditional sport practiced in the south, is a fight that is practiced mainly during holidays (exhumation, circumcision…) or at zebu market day. This is the time when young men try to prove their sons at the age of manhood, and in other words to demonstrate their ability to take responsibility. It is a fist fight, the goal is to launch his opponent to the ground, but with a short series of shots; the secret is passed down from father to son. Less brutal than boxing, this is a sport that requires cunningness, agility, speed and flexibility, another way to educate young people. Finally, it is also a means of defense against cattle rustlers. Also, zebu symbolizes the power and wealth.
The Malagasy people highlight their value ​​such as the notion of ‘Fihavanana’, that is to say, affection, brotherhood and solidarity, meant to get rid of the negative points. It is about courage and respect for one another.

”DIAMANGA” TRADITIONAL SPORTS IN THE HIGHLANDS

The Merina tribe has their style called ‘Diamanga’, ‘daka’ which means kicking. During the royal era, the “Diamanga” was performed in a place called “lembalemba” (an arena) and was based on the observation of various animal movements to defend themselves, giving shots, especially those of zebu, requiring alertness and agility to the opposition. The educational value of Diamanga lies in its ability to be transmitted to a master hunter the inner strength and ability to react very quickly. Once the king Andrianampoinimerina said “Ny hery tsy mahaleo ny fanahy” (The force cannot overcome the spirit).

l.6) MALAGASY MUSIC

Music is an essential part of Malagasy culture. Music is often present during family or community celebrations like weddings, dances or during religious and traditional ceremonies such as masses, exhumation, “tromba”, or circumcision.
Music extends the social and cultural life of the community. In the southwest of the island, villagers get together and improvise on local instruments such as ‘Marovany’ (Malagasy xylophone), the Antranatrana or Korintsana (percussion). It sets the tempo and symbolizes life and the passage of time.
In the Highlands, the «Hira Gasy» is the traditional songs based on morals, proverbs, accompanied by wind instruments and a kind of drum, the Aponga.
In the rural areas, one may be surprised to discover musical instruments, copies of electric guitars, carved from local wood and using cable from fishing line!
During the Sakalava “Tromba” in the north, they invoke the ancestor and call the dead performed in accordance with the calling songs accompanied by an accordion melody. Also, in Sakalava region, “kilalaka” is very popular: it is both music and a very rhythmic dance performed by the “dahalo” (Cattle rustlers) to cover their tracks.

SOME MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS MALAGASY

Jaojoby: a specialist of Salegy and its derivative, such as “Malessa” and “Baœjy.” It is a warm and upbeat music, played mostly on the west and north coast of Madagascar.
Rosy, Pierrot Matatana, Da- Tokotry , Dahlia: Singer specializing in Malagasy folk songs, linking the traditional and modern influences.
Mahaleo, D’Gary , Eric Manana, Njakatiana : The Giant of Madagascar “Folk Song”.                                                     Bodo, Poppy, Samoela, Marion , Ambondrona : High-plateau ‘s rhythms .
Justin Vali: resident in France, using “Valiha”, a traditional bamboo instrument.                                                              Happy music rhytm: Jerry Marcos, Tafita, Tsiliva, Onja, Black Nadia … ect.

l.7) PAPER ANTEMORO

Secular process invented by the first Arab migrants to transcribe their damaged precious Koran by the sea voyage during their migration, and currently one of the most beautiful Malagasy crafts, the Antemoro Paper rediscovered at the beginning of the century by Pierre Mathieu who had established his workshop at Ambalavao, still running. The paper is made from the pulp of mulberry called wild Avoha, its scientific name is called ‘Bosqueia danguyana’, which grows throughout the eastern coast of Madagascar. Made entirely by hand and dried during daylight, the paper is white, relatively thick and, sometimes inlaid with very decorative dried flowers. Used for binding, envelopes, lampshades, purse, etc…

l.8) THE “ZAFIMANIRY” ART

The expertise of Zafimaniry gained an international Cultural Heritage from the UNESCO in 2008. The Zafimaniry, a sub ethnic group of Betsileo, live in the forest, southeast of Ambositra. These carvings are useful items they need in everyday life displayed on furniture, utensils and their own houses, shutters and doors carved with amazing designs that consolidated the Indonesian origin of the Austronesian or Madagascar, but also the influence of Arab culture.
Furthermore, Antoetra the administrative capital (district) of the Zafimaniry is only accessible by foot. To visit the craftsmen at work, there are people of Ambohimanjaka who are ready to show visitors how they work. To get there, take the road north of Imerin’Imady in Ambositra and then take a track about 40 km to reach the large village of Ambohimitombo. From there, walk about 1 hour and half to get to Ambohimanjaka.

l.9) THE FANORONA

The Fanorona is an introductory war strategy according to ancient beliefs, a means of divination game. The winner of a party may exercise any power or success in his future work, the loser will fail in his life.                                              Actually, the Fanorona is a set of native society usually attributed to the fertile imagination of Andriantompokoindrindra (1600), Prince of Ambohimalaza.
However, the Fanorona diagram has similarities to that of Alquerque which tend to most be likely a game made around 1300 by Arab traders of the island, then transformed by its inhabitants. The Fanorona scope resembles a juxtaposition of the two schemes Alquerque. The Alquerque, originating in ancient Egypt (1000 BC), is practiced throughout the Middle East.
Several patterns carved into the rock have been found in the Antananarivo region, including in Alasora, one of the oldest (between 1500 and 1600) and Ambohimanga.

l.10) THE SAVIKA

Savika is a Betsileo traditional sport in Amoron’i Mania region (Ambositra).
The Savika is a kind of bullfight, a fight against a zebu using bare hands, clinging to the hump or the horns of the animal. The goal is not to hurt or kill the animal, but to prove his (the man) strength.
It is a rite of passage from young man to be accepted as a responsible man in the community.
Zebu has a symbolic role in the Malagasy rural society, necessarily important during events such as funerals, exhumation and other traditional rituals.
The father tells his son the task of keeping the herd. He must observe the behavior of each animal and learn from it. Then the next day, he must go to practice the ‘Savika’ proving that he is a man now, able to assume his responsibilities within the family and community.

WHAT DO MALAGASY PEOPLE DRINK?

– The Ranon’ampango or ranovola
This is the burnt rice water (from boiled water) with the rest of burnt rice stuck at the bottom of the pot. It is good against dehydration problems and diarrhea, another good way to drink safe water.

– The Trembo (palm wine)
In most villages along the coast, there are the so-called “Trembo” which is actually palm wine. Its manufacture is quite simple since it consists of collecting the juice from young coconut which is to be fermented.

– The toaka Gasy
“Toaka Gasy” means the Malagasy strong alcohol drinks. This is often illegally distilled in various components, mostly from sugar cane. The only problem is that the farmers do not control the percentage rate of alcohol in the drink that may reach nearly 75 % of pure alcohol (75°) which can be very dangerous for consumer.

– The betsabetsa
It is a palm wine produced mainly on the east coast from the fruit and bark. They are found in most small groceries.

– Rhum
It is a drink consumed throughout the island. There is also a multitude of smaller brands at low prices, such as the “Turbo 2”, “Cazanove”, “Boom Boom”, “Sambo”, etc. Among the classic rum include Dzamandzary from (Nosy Be), the Ambilobe (Port St. Louis) and Maromamy from (Brickaville).

– Wine
Some vineyards produce the source of sacramental wine planted in the late nineteenth century. Today vineyards thrive in the Betsileo region (mainly around Ambalavao). Several brands offer red wine, rosé or white wine among which we can mention the ‘Lazan’ny Betsileo’, the ‘Grand Cru Antsirabe,’ and ‘Clos Malaza’…

– THB (Three Horses Beer)
This is the most consumed beer in the country receiving international reward during the Oktoberfest in Germany!

WHAT DO MALAGASY PEOPLE EAT?

– Rice
When considering the Malagasy cuisine, it is impossible not to mention their daily food staple, rice. Throughout the island, the landscapes are nearly dominated by rice fields. Madagascar holds the world record for eating rice! It consumes about 200 to 350 kg of rice per year at least per person.

Some typical dishes
– The romazava

We can say that this is the typical dish of Madagascar. Romazava literally means “clear broth”. This is actually a broth consisting of a few greens and sometimes a little meat put in a big plate of rice.
In restaurants, Romazava is more or less accompanied with chicken or pork.

– The Ravitoto
It is a dish made from pounded cassava leaves, with pork or beef and sometimes mixed with coconut milk (on the coast). Malagasy prefer especially the fat of the pork.
Vegetables also accompany the rice in Malagasy diet. Potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, beans grow on the central highlands. Corn, cassava, sweet potatoes are used as food supplements.

Products involved in the culinary arts …
– The Highlands

Frog legs, trout and crayfish, and Foie Gras. Fruits include peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, pears, apples, strawberries!
– On the coast
Seafood: small oysters, lobster, mangrove crabs, shrimp, fish and sea urchins.
Tropical fruits (mango, papaya, passion fruit, apples, cream, lychees, or bananas, etc).