a) The geography of Madagascar

Madagascar is located in the southern hemisphere. It is an island surrounded by two seas including the Indian Ocean to the East and the Mozambique Channel which separates it from Africa by 400km to the West.
Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Its length is 1580 km from north to south and its width is 590 km from east to west. Madagascar covers a total area of 592,000 square kilometers.
Antananarivo is its capital.


The Malagasy had existed since 500. A Portuguese named Diégo Diaz arrived in Madagascar in 1500.
Before foreigners including Arabs, Portuguese, English and French arrived in Madagascar, the Malagasy lived in close-knit communities. They helped each other a lot in their daily life. The “FIHAVANANA” (family bond) was the motto of the company.
Unfortunately, this has disappeared since the Kingdoms period as social classes arose. The law of the strongest began to be felt so well that struggles against repression appeared from 1929 until 1947. Why?
Here is a little history:
In 1895, the French arrived in Madagascar. They began to colonize the country in 1896, which spawned various insurgencies such as the uprising of the nationalists of March 29, 1929 killing a good number of Malagasy citizens and the movement of 1947. Following these revolts, Madagascar officially regained its independence on June 26, 1960, a very memorable date for Malagasy people.
Democratic Republic of Madagascar
The list of presidents of Madagascar: from June 26, 1960 to October 11, 1972 Philibert Tsiranana is the president.
From October 11, 1972 to February 5, 1975 Gabriel Ramanantsoa is the head of state. From February 5, 1975 to February 11, 1975 Richard Ratsimandrava was the head of state.
From February 12, 1975 to June 15, 1975 Gilles Andriamahazo was president of the national commission on military leadership. From June 15, 1975 to December 30, 1975 Didier Ratsiraka was president of the Supreme Council of the Revolution. From January 4, 1976 to September 12, 1992 Didier Ratsiraka, is the president. Republic of Madagascar from September 12, 1992 to March 27, 1993 Didier Ratsiraka is the president. From March 27, 1993 to September 5, 1996 Albert Zafy is the president.
From February 9, 1997 to July 5, 2002 Didier Ratsiraka was president. From February 22, 2002 to March 17, 2009, Marc Ravalomanana is the president. From March 17, 2009 to January 25, 2014, Andry Rajoelina is the president of the High Authority of Transition. From January 25, 2014 to Present, Hery Rajaonarimampianina is the President.


Madagascar has a tropical climate.
It has two main seasons:

  • dry and cool from May to October.
  • Hot and humid between November and April.
    From the end of December until the beginning of April, it is the hurricane season, especially in the North and East regions of the island. Precipitation varies considerably in each region. The western part of Madagascar is the hottest place in the country receiving only 30 centimeters of rain per year; the southern part has a semi-arid climate with a dry season that can last up to nine months. The east is the wettest part with an average of 355 cm of rain per year; the east is hot and humid, especially in the very low parts. The temperature is around 0°C in the highlands.
    In the North, the dry tropical climate presents little rain, except in places where the altitude is a little high, around Mount Tsaratanana.
    In general, winter starts from the beginning of June and ends at the end of August.


The population of Madagascar is of Indonesian, Malaysian, Arabian and African origin.
Madagascar has over 22 million people, with 18 ethnic groups speaking only one language known as Malagasy. The people are also called ‘Malagasy’. Each ethnic group has its own way of life, habits and customs, cultures and specific dances.


Madagascar is an exotic and unique place in the world, after the fall of Eden where naturalists could find their best field of choice. Most of the plants and animals found there do not exist anywhere else. Eighty percent of its plants are endemic. All mammals are endemic except those that have been introduced; half of the bird species found in Madagascar are also endemic, as well as over 90% of the reptiles. Of the seven species of baobabs existing in the world, Madagascar has them all, six of which are endemic. Lemurs such as the Indri attract tourists and are the most popular of all wildlife as they are found only in Madagascar. The island also has hundreds of medicinal plants used by local and foreign pharmaceutical industries; some of these plants can treat cancer and diabetes.


The Malagasy constitution does not prohibit the practice of religion. It grants each individual the freedom to worship his God. The dominant religion is Christianity: Catholic and Protestant. The Muslim and Orthodox faith are also practiced; however, the majority of Malagasy people still believe in their ancestors as they believe they have great influences on their lives and daily activities.


The first language is Malagasy which belongs to Malayo-Polynesian. The French language plays a very important role in Madagascar because all the documents relating to the administration are written in French. It is widespread in schools, businesses, communities. English has become popular. The last national referendum of April 04, 2007 confirmed that the official languages are: Malagasy, French and English.


No vaccination is required in Madagascar. Pills against malaria, anti-hepatitis injections, are strongly recommended. As Madagascar is a country with a tropical climate where malaria is present especially on the east coast. Despite this, Madagascar is not a risk area . In addition, you must protect yourself against mosquito bites by wearing clothes that cover your whole body, using mosquito nets in the rooms, applying mosquito repellent and swallowing tablets the day before departure until day of return, as prescribed by your doctor.


The government is a multi-party republican system with a parliament and a senate.
The President: Hery Rajaonarimampianina, elected in 2014.
The Prime Minister: Jean Omer Beriziky, appointed since 2011.
Madagascar is governed by the 2010 Constitution. The President, considered the head of state, is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by a Prime Minister who is appointed by the President. It is a parliament composed of the Senate (the upper house) and the National Assembly (the lower house). Two thirds of the senators are elected by the regional assemblies, the others are appointed by the President. The members of the National Assembly are elected by universal suffrage. All legislators have a term of five years. Administratively, Madagascar is divided into 22 regions.


Madagascar’s economy is mainly export-based. However, tourism plays an important role for the economic development of the country, in terms of sustainable development. It is also the country’s source of income giving first of all many job creations for young people, especially in the local community. Madagascar is one of the islands that export large quantities of products such as coffee, vanilla, cocoa, ylang-ylang, lychee, cloves, pepper, etc.…
Industrial production includes cotton, tobacco, sugar cane. Madagascar has many textile, sugar, beer industries known as THB (Three Horses Beer). When it comes to the mining industry, Madagascar abounds with precious stones like sapphire, blue beryl, ruby, as well as chrome, graphite, mica and the thin black sand known as Ilmenite; in a few years, Madagascar will be among the major producers of cobalt and nickel in the world.


Ancestor worship.
The complex origin of the Malagasy people has created various functions. Despite the many notions of ethnic and clan configurations, the country uses a common language and has——a belief in the power of departed ancestors, spread across the island. Although traditional belief manifests the existence of a single, omnipresent and omnipotent God named “Andriamanitra” or “Andriananahary” (Lord Creator), the Malagasy also worship the ancestors or “Razana”. Ancestor worship is a celebration of the “science of life” because the dead are seen as powerful upholders of life on earth, both physical and spiritual. The ancestor retains his individuality and family ties. Its power is revealed by the political, cultural, medical family, or by a community of “sacred orders”. Belief involves certain risks, such as accidents, diseases being the consequences of a violation of ancestor worship. Justice is imposed by them for violating the “fady” (taboo), for example. All the Malagasy people do this in their life. Before building a house or a canoe, at the wedding, before exams, etc., the “Razana” will be consulted. Animals (chickens, zebus) or others (rum, honey, etc.) will then be sacrificed in turn. To give you an example of how this practice is deeply rooted in all social strata, the flight of the national airline, Air Madagascar Boeing 747 in 1979 required a sacrifice of zebu to ensure a long life to the craft and its passengers.


It is death translated by the traditional Malagasy religion marking the passage of man to a higher rank called “Razana” (ancestor). The latter dominates another world of new generation which fears and honors him. Three important ceremonies accompany death. It is the burial, the “Famadihana” (exhumation or reversal of the bone) and the sacrifice. Ceremonies differ by region.


In general, this is very applied by some tribes.
When the deceased has been washed, dressed and wrapped in a cloth called “Lamba Mena” (piece of silk shroud), he can be exposed for some time before burial. Then he is placed in a coffin before being taken to the grave.

The Rites observed in the countries of Mahafaly and Antandroy.

At the funeral, the coffin is violently shaken in all directions by the group of men who carry it on their shoulders; men dance while women clap their hands; other men wield spears. Once the deceased is taken to his grave and buried, a monument to his memory is erected. The sacrifice of one or more zebus accompanies the ceremony which can last several days with vigils accompanied by songs and dances. The festival ends with a celebration in which the meat is shared among all attendees. The importance of the festival is linked to the wealth of the deceased and it is sometimes a herd of several tens or hundreds of zebu heads that are sacrificed. Some tombs are beautifully decorated with hundreds of pairs of horns, symbols of the importance and wealth of the deceased.

The Famadihana (exhumation ceremony).

There are several circumstances for the practice of “Famadihana”:

  • The first is that, if someone dies far from his native country, he is buried first where he lived but, after a few years, the rest of his body is transferred to his family or ancestral vault.
  • The second is to change the blankets of the ancestors while assuming that they really need it. This operation is carried out during the dry season, for health reasons. In principle, the “Famadihana” ceremony takes place several years after death. It is the “Mpanandro” (astrologer or shaman) who determines the date and time. Here are the different stages of the exhumation ceremony : We take the rest of the body out of the vault where it was. It is wrapped in a mat or “tsihy” to be carried by two men and a group of families: men, women and children. Some sing, others play musical instruments. People exchange jokes. Once arrived at the family tomb, the body is wrapped in a “Lamba Mena” shroud (veil) coated with honey. Everyone gives what they want to receive the blessing of the ancestors, either tobacco, or rice, or alcohol. Then, before putting it back in its place, it is customary to walk around the grave seven times. The whole ceremony takes place in an atmosphere of celebration, joy, music, songs and rhythms. A speech in memory of the living and the dead closes the ceremony.

Malagasy struggle.

Existing since the 16th century, the so-called “Ringa” (wrestling) being part of a traditional Malagasy sport practiced in the south, is a fight that is practiced mainly during holidays, during ceremonies (exhumation, circumcision… ) or on the day of the zebu market. This is the moment when the young boys try to prove that they are at the age of men, that is to say that they are already able to take their responsibilities It is a fist fight whose l he objective is to knock his opponent to the ground, but with a short series of blows; the secret is transmitted from father to son. Less brutal than boxing, it is a sport that requires cunning, agility, speed and flexibility. The “Ringa” is also another way of educating young people. It is also a defense against cattle rustlers (Dahalo).
The zebu symbolizes power and wealth.
Diamanga is a traditional sport practiced in mountainous regions. The Merina tribe has their own style called Diamanga “Daka” which means kick. In royal times, the “Diamanga” was performed in a place called “lembalemba” (an arena). It is based on the observation of the various defense movements of animals by kicking themselves, especially those zebus, requiring vigilance and adversary agility. The educational value of the Diamanga could well serve a master hunter.

Malagasy music.

Music is part of Malagasy culture. She is always present, either for a family celebration, or for a community celebration (weddings, dances) or during religious and traditional ceremonies (mass, exhumation, “tromba”, circumcision).
Music prolongs the social and cultural life of the community. In the southwest of the island, the villagers get together and improvise with local instruments, such as the “marovany” (from the Malagasy xylophone), the Antranatrana or Korintsana (from the percussion).
In the highlands, the “Hira Gasy” is the traditional song based on morality, proverbs, accompanied by wind instruments and a kind of drum, the Aponga.
In rural areas, one may be surprised to discover musical instruments, copies of electric guitars called “kabôsy”, carved in local wood. In addition, in the south of the country, “kilalaka” is very popular. It is both music and a very rhythmic dance performed by the “dahalo” (cattle/zebu thieves) to erase their tracks.

Some Malagasy musicians and artists.

Jaojoby: a specialist in Salegy and its derivative, such as “Malessa” and “Baœjy.” It is warm and upbeat music, played mainly on the west and north coasts of Madagascar.
Rossy, Pierrot Matatana, Da-Tokotry, Dahlia: Singer specializing in Malagasy folk songs, linking traditional and modern influences.
Mahaleo, D’Gary, Eric Manana, Njakatiana: The Giant of Madagascar “Folk Song”.
Bodo, poppy, Samoela, Marion, Ambondrona: high-plateau rhythms.
Justin Vali: resides in France, using ‘valiha’, a traditional bamboo instrument.
Rhythm of happy music: Jerry Marcos, Tafita, Tsiliva, Onja, black Nadia.. etc

“Antaimoro paper”

It is a centuries-old process invented by the first Arab migrants to transcribe their precious Koran, which was badly damaged by crossing the sea. Currently, this Antaimoro paper, rediscovered by Pierre Matthieu who created a workshop in Ambalavao, has a worldwide reputation and figures among one of the most beautiful Malagasy professions.
The paper is made from the pulp of the wild mulberry called ‘AVOHA’, its scientific name is called ‘Bosqueia danguyana’, which grows all along the eastern coast of Madagascar. Made entirely by hand and dried during the day, the paper is white, relatively thick and sometimes encrusted with very decorative dried flowers. It is used in the manufacture of envelopes, lampshades, handbags, baskets… .

“Zafimaniry” art

The expertise of the Zafimaniry was inscribed on the UNESCO cultural heritage list in 2008. The Betsileo Zafimaniry ethnic subgroup lives in the forest, southeast of Ambositra. These are woods that they use in daily life to make furniture, utensils and their own houses with windows and doors carved with consolidated geometric patterns, of Indonesian or Malagasy origin.
In addition, Antoetra, the administrative capital (district) of the Zafimaniry is accessible only on foot. To see the craftsmen at work, people from Ambohimanjaka can help visitors achieve this.
To get there, you take the road north from Imerin’Imady to Ambositra then you take the 40 km track to reach the large village of Ambohimitombo. From there, you have to walk about 1.5 hours to reach Ambohimanjaka.


The Fanorona is a strategy of war according to ancient beliefs, a means of divination game: the winner can exercise any power or be successful in his works.
In fact, the Fanorona is a game of the indigenous society, to the imagination of Andriantompokoindrindra (1600), Prince of Ambohimalaza.
However, the Fanorona has similarities with that of Alquerque, a game practiced by Arab traders in 1300, then transformed by the Malagasy.
The Fanorona indeed resembles a juxtaposition of the two Alquerque regimes. Alquerque, coming from ancient Egypt (1000 BC), is practiced in the Middle East.
Several motifs carved in rock have been found in the Antananarivo region, particularly at Alasora, one of the oldest (between 1500 and 1600) and at Ambohimanga.

The Savika.

These are the traditional sports of the Betsileo region of Amoron’i Mania (Ambositra).
The Savika is a kind of bare-handed fight against a zebu, clinging to the hump or the horns of the animal. The goal is not to hurt or kill the animal, but to prove the strength of the wrestler

What do Malagasy people drink?

– The Ranon’ampango or Ranovola

It is the rice water that is boiled with the rest of the rice crust burned at the bottom of the pot. It is good against dehydration problems and diarrhea. It is safe to drink.

The Trembo (palm wine).

In most villages on the coast there is what is called “Trembo”, palm wine. Its manufacture is very simple since it consists of taking liquid from a young coconut and letting it ferment.

– The toaka Gasy.

Toaka Gasy refers to Malagasy strong alcoholic drinks. This is often illegally distilled into various components, but mostly from sugar cane. The only problem is that farmers do not control the percentage of alcohol content in the drink reaching almost 75% pure alcohol (75°) which is perhaps very dangerous for consumers.

– The betsabetsa.

The betsabetsa is found mainly on the east coast; it is made from the fruit and the bark. It is sold in small grocery stores.

– Rhum.

It is an alcoholic drink consumed throughout the island. There is also a multitude of small brands at low prices, such as “Turbo 2”, “Cazanove”, “Boom Boom”, “Sambo”, etc. Among the classic rum, there is Dzamandzar from Nosy Be, Port Saint-Louis from Ambilobe and candy from Maromamy from Brickaville.

– Vine.

Some vineyards produce the mass wine planted at the end of the 19th century. Today, the vines are developing a lot in the Betsileo region (mainly in Ambalavao). Several brands offer red, rosé and white wine, among which we can mention the “Lazan’ny Betsileo”, the “Grand Cru d’Antsirabe” and the Clos Malaza.

– THB (Three Horses Beer).

It is the most consumed beer in the country, having an international award during the beer festival in Germany, the Oktoberfest!

What do Malagasy people eat?


When talking about Malagasy cuisine, rice is never omitted because it is the main food of Malagasy people. Throughout the island, the landscapes are almost occupied by rice fields. Madagascar holds the world record for rice consumption (a Malagasy eats at least 135 to 400 kg of rice per year).

Some typical dishes.

– Romazava.

We can say that ‘Romazava’ is the typical dish of Madagascar. Romazava means “clear broth”. It is actually a broth made up of a few green vegetables and sometimes with a little meat that accompanies the rice.
In restaurants, romazava is more or less accompanied by chicken or pork meat.

– Ravitoto.

It is a dish made from pounded cassava leaves, with pork or beef and sometimes mixed with coconut milk (on the coast). The Madagascans especially prefer to prepare it with the bacon of the pork.
Vegetables also accompany rice in Malagasy food. They are grown in the Central Highlands, namely potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, beans. Corn, cassava, sweet potatoes are considered complementary foods.

Mixed products in the culinary arts…

-On the Highlands.

Nymph thighs which can reach the size of a chicken thigh, trout, crayfish, foie gras.
The fruits are peaches, apricots, plums, grapes, pears, apples, and strawberries.

On the coast.

Seafood, such as oysters, lobsters, mangrove crabs, shrimps, fish and sea urchins.
Tropical fruits, namely mangoes, papayas, passion fruits, apples, lychees, bananas, etc.).