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Madagascar Guide

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The first inhabitants of Madagascar

Madagascar is one of the last major territories to host human populations in the early days of our era. The first settlers disembarked from Borneo, paving their way through the lush vegetation and a disproportionate wildlife, including giant lemurs and Madagascar hippo which became extinct. The Arabs took over from colonization, followed by eastern African immigrants who settled in the Highlands.

History of Madagascar

In the early seventeenth century, Madagascar was born under the name Kingdom of Imerina which gradually extended its influence throughout the island. In the beginning of the nineteenth, Madagascar signed trade agreements with the British government, opening the country to the English, who brought in important technological innovations and Christianity. Shortly after, a coup ended the Malagasy monarchy and established a parliamentary monarchy based on the British model.

French colonization to independence

Towards the end of the nineteenth, the French, under the pretext of non-compliance of certain trade agreements, invade the north of Madagascar and then walk towards Antananarivo. After the capture of the city, the royal family is forced into exile, and “L’Île Rouge” (French name for Madagascar) is converted into French colony. After the Second World War, Madagascar follows the common disillusionment movement of the many colonies vis-à-vis of France, and slides peacefully towards independence on the 26th of June 1960.

Geography of Madagascar

Madagascar has a complex and varied geography, made of tropical jungles, highlands and semi-desert areas. This territorial variety makes of the Red Island an inexhaustible source of picturesque landscapes wearing varied climates.

The Highlands

The Highlands of Madagascar is mainly constituted of the region of Antananarivo, in the center of the country .The Highlands consist of plateaus between 1200 and 1500 meters high. The high plateaus of Madagascar tends to be very cold over the year.

The coasts

The east coast is characterized by its tropical climate: it rains a lot (even in the dry season), there are rainforests inland and sharks on the beaches … To the west, on the contrary, the rains are more discreet and often nocturnal. Temperatures slowly increase as one descends from the central highlands, until arriving at the desert plains to the north, or in the baobab forests to the south.

The South

Large semi-desertic region of Madagascar, the South has a very unusual vegetation adapted to its environment. Similarly, the locals are hardened to live in such a harsh atmosphere, but although some minor cities are unsavory, southern Madagascar remain no less welcoming in general!

A fragmented culture with a common base

If the Malagasy culture is very fragmented at first (strong cultural identities from one region to another), it actually has a solid base of widespread traditions and especially a language common to all Malagasy (accents and part vocabulary vary, but it is the same language). For example, one of the most widespread common features of Malagasy culture is the traditional division of society into castes, mainly between the nobles, plebeians and slaves: although it is much less marked today. This stratification is still felt in some villages, where social origin determines the future direction of individuals.

A culture nourished by various influences

Malagasy culture absorbed many influences, imported at the discretion of migration towards Madagascar. Thus, the construction of tombs dug on the cliffs and topped with elaborate decorations, is inherited from the earliest entrants into the Red Island, from Borneo, and the use astrology to determine the key event dates (weddings, celebrations ancestors) was inspired by the science brought by the Arabs. One can also take the Asian influence, especially in the Malagasy cuisine where rice is the basis of all meals and African influence, which is found in the importance and symbolism of livestock: The health of the zebu reflects the situation of the owner.

Oral Culture

Madagascar also has an oral culture, especially through song, music composed of traditional instruments, and poetry. The Malagasy are also versed in the arts, with very different styles and materials from one region to another, and mainly architectural and decorative vocation. Regarding sports, if football is widespread, the Rugby is considered the national sport. Another sport activity is also widespread: “The Petanque”.

Cuisine

The base of any Malagasy meal is rice, usually accompanied by pork or zebu, and fish (sea or freshwater), and a variety of vegetables (ground peas, mashed cassava and Green bean salad, cabbage and carrots).  Malagasy cuisine is typically flavored with garlic and onion, but also curry, coconut milk and ginger. All these elements allow a wide variety of dishes, in great specialties by Region (excellent seafood on the coast, zebu milk-based sauces in the center).

Beverages

As for drinks, you’ll find all the famous “rice water” recovered from the bottom of the pan used to cook the rice. Rather tasteless, it has some recognized digestive properties! Madagascar also some excellent local rums (Toca Gasy “Malagasy rum”), found arranged in different flavors: vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, ginger and many others!

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