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Madagaskar

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Madagaskar

Madagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean, just in front of Mozambique and represents the eastern border of Africa.
Nature and animal lovers find in Madagascar a real paradise on the earth; the 80% of the flora and fauna of the world in fact live in this Island, representing the biggest endemic spot of the world. The clearer examples of endemic species are the lemurs, together with 250 different kinds of frogs, chameleons, baobabs and butterflies.

The word “Malagasy” is used to indicate the language, the ethnicity and the citizenship.
Inside the island coexist 18 different ethnic groups, coming from Indonesia (Merina), Africa (Bantu), the Arabic world (Antemoro and Antanosy), and Europe, with the colonization of French, Portuguese and Dutch.

Madagascar, French protectorate since 1885, became an independent Republic on June 26th, 1960 under president Philibert Tsiranana.
Many presidents followed the first one finding a lot of difficulties ruling this Country until March 17th, 2009. That day the leader of the opposition Andry Rajoelina besieges, together with the army, the presidential palace, running a coup d’état.
Nowadays the politicians are still looking for a final solution, even if nothing is defined yet.
It’s important to highlight that those internal controversies just rarely ended up in armed conflicts (and mostly just in the capital). The local population is very pacific and not too much interested in the national facts of politics, especially in the rural and coastal areas. Those factors made the tourists feel safe even during the most delicate periods.
Madagascar is also called Red Island due to the color of the land, full of minerals. A central plateau divides Madagascar in two sides and the capital, Antananrivo, is built upon it. The eastern part is wilder, with thick vegetation and a rainy weather. The west instead is dry and more arid, helping the development of tourism.

The majority of the population is Catholic, even if they still practice traditional rituals coming from the ancient Malagasy religion:
– The cult directed to the ancestors, Razana. They invoke the ancestors to protect living people from bad luck and diseases. Those rituals are mandatory to start a business or for the weddings and consist in music and dance, accompanied by Malagasy Rum and, when people are rich enough, by the sacrifice of a Zebu. Except for the sacrifice, those ceremonies are incredibly interesting for tourists. The biggest ceremony known at the moment was the one for the inauguration of the first Air Madagascar flight with its Boeing 747.

  • Funerals are different region by region. In the plateau, Merina people wrap the deceased in a shroud of silk. After several days of parental visits, it is carried to the grave, but only after having accompanied him for the last time in the places dear to him. Mahafaly and Antandroy people use to dance while carrying the coffin of the deceased. Some zebu are sacrificed at the beginning of the ceremony (if the dead was important, the of zebu dedicated to the cause increases) and, after several days of dancing, singing and drinking, the ceremony ends with a big meal where you eat meat of bovine animals and where they lay their horns on a monument dedicated to the deceased.
  • The date of disinterment, Famadihana, is decided at the time of death by an astrologer, Mpanandro. This ritual takes place some years after the death and consists in the exhumation of the body and its transport through the village, accompanied by songs, music and games. After the day, they have it wrapped in a new shroud, he is made to make seven times round the grave. After the ceremony, people eat again zebu meat, sacrificed for the cause.
  • The sorcerers, Ombiasy are some real shamans, healers and knowledgeable of medicinal herbs. They can also communicate with the dead and communicate their will to live people. This is the reason why they are people of the utmost importance in political and social life of the Malagasy community.
  • The laws of the ancestors are composed of “Fady” and “Fomba.” The Fady are taboo for all the living persons. Sometimes they are addressed to a particular person, sometimes to a clan, sometimes only to certain categories of people. The Malagasy almost never get offended if a tourist, a Vasa, does not meet these Fady, although it is good practice to comply with all local beliefs. The Fomba is instead an obligation, often caused by traditional customs. To avoid the punishment of their ancestors, all Malagasy are required to comply with these laws. Among all, Malagasy are required to drop some rum on the floor whenever they open a new bottle.
  • Circumcision is performed. The ceremony is very articulate and collective (all boys of the same age group are circumcised at the same time) and takes considerable size at the Antambahoaka. In their areas, in fact, the feast of Sambatra is dedicated to this ceremony. Every seven years, thousands of guests are invited and the festivities go on for weeks, disrupting all activities of the community.

Those ceremonies are real and shouldn’t include tourists and foreigners (vasa’). If you’re interested, you should always ask the permission to the chief of the village and you must respect their wills.
Madagascar is divided in Provinces, Regions, Districts and Municipalities. The Provinces are six and their name is the name of their chief towns:

  1. – Antananarivo, 4.580.000 inhabitants
  2. – Antsiranana, 1.188.000 inhabitants
  3. – Fianarantsoa, 3.366.000 inhabitants
  4. – Mahajanga, 1.733.000 inhabitants
  5. – Toamasina (Tomasina), 2.593.000 inhabitants
  6. – Toliara (Tulear), 2.229.000 inhabitants

Regions are 22 and include 111 districts. Each district include urban municipalities (they are 45 and they’re called Firaisana) and rural municipalities (the poorest of Madagascar).
Beyond tourism, Madagascar lives (survives) with textile exportations. Other important resources are given by the trade of Vanilla and essential oils. Energetic resources are limited and underground there are just few oil deposits and natural gas spots. On the contrary, the terrain is rich of minerals as graphite, gold and precious stones. Huge multinationals are opening branches in order to start the extraction of Nickel, widespread in Madagascar.
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