Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique. The world's fourth-largest island, it is twice the size of Arizona. The country's low-lying coastal area gives way to a central plateau. The once densely wooded interior has largely been cut down.
Research suggests that the island was uninhabited until the first Malayo-Indonesian seafarers arrived some 1800 years ago. One migration theory asserts that these migrants reached the island after a long journey with stops along the coasts of India, the Arabian peninsula and Eastern Africa. Research also suggests that the Malagasy people evolved from successive waves of immigration over several centuries, a fact that accounts for the diversity of racial, ethnic and cultural features in the population of the island today.
A Portuguese seaman, Diego Diaz, was the first of the European explorers to sight Madagascar on his way to India in 1500. Over the next few centuries the Portuguese, the English and the French all tried and failed to dominate and colonize Madagascar, though the French did establish colonies as early as 1642. They had to contend with several Malagasy kingdoms, including those of the Sakalava in the West, the Merina in the Central Highlands, the Betsileo to the South of the Merina, and the Antemoro in the Southeast. By the end of the 18th century, the Merina were united under King Andrianampoinimerina, who reigned from 1787 until 1810, and his thrust to unify the island was continued under his successor Radama I. With Radama I came a new era in Madagascar that saw the modernization of the army, the establishment of schools, and the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. The Merina expanded their rule over the country during the reign of Radama I, as he led the resistance to the continuing French attempts at colonization. By the end of the 19th century, the Merina kingdom ruled all Madagascar except the South and part of the West.
In 1885, the French finally succeeded in establishing a protectorate over Madagascar. Opposition by the Malagasy culminated in the revolt of the "Menalamba" (literally the "Red Shawls") in the Merina region. Nevertheless, in 1896, the French defeated the Merina resistance, exiled Queen Ranavalona III, abolished the monarchy, and claimed Madagascar as a colony. By 1904, the French had full control of the island.
Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean located right off the coast of Southeastern Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world with an area of 587,000 square kilometers and is separated from the continent of Africa by the Mozambique Channel.
The major part of the island consists of a highland, with several volcanic ranges. The highest point on Madagascar occurs in the northern mountainous region at Mount Maromokotro, with a summit reaching 9436 feet.
The island itself is about 980 miles long, and about 360 miles at its widest. The Republic of Madagascar also includes a few minor islands. The capital of Madagascar is Antananarivo, located in the central part of the island in the high mountain ranges of the Ankaratra range, with a maximum elevation of 8,671 feet (2,643 meters). The island broke off from the African continent about 165 million years ago, and established its own evolutionary future, serendipitously free from human intervention until the arrival of the first settlers about 1700 years ago. As a result, it possesses a flora and fauna that are largely unique to the island, a biodiversity hotspot with pristine habitats that continue to attract adventurous travelers from far and wide. Approximately 40 percent of the bird species found on the island are unique to Madagascar, as are 80 percent of the flowers, 95 percent of the reptiles, 90 percent of the trees and 99 percent of the primates -- the famous lemurs.
The land slopes rather steeply from the center down towards the Indian Ocean to the East, and much more gently towards the Mozambique Channel to the West. Rivers which flow to the Mozambique Channel are the Betsiboka, Tsiribihina, Mangoky and the Onilahy. These rivers flow gradually to the Channel and fertilize many valleys on their way, while the rivers which flow to the Indian Ocean run much faster, creating waterfalls and lakes, the largest of which is the Alaotra in the Northeast.
The Malagasy people have many unique traditions and customs, starting with very strong family bonds. Children usually live with their parents until they want to get married. The engagement or "Fanateram-bodiondry" is a ceremony conducted in the presence of relatives and friends from both sides. During the celebration, the groom-to-be offers a gift to the parents of the future bride, in honor and appreciation of having raised an exemplary daughter. Some families have adopted the western custom of having the groom offer the bride-to-be an engagement ring during the Fanateram-bodiondry. Until the 20th century, the Fanateram-bodiondry was the actual wedding ceremony. More recently however, there came to be an engagement, and a separate wedding day.
Circumcision (Famoràna) is another interesting Malagasy tradition. When a boy is about to be circumcised, all close relatives and friends gather for a feast, and people party all night. At dawn, the child is taken to a hospital to be circumcised. When he returns home, he is offered toys, money, chocolates, and lots of candy. In some cases, especially in rural areas, a traditional practitioner performs the circumcision at home, and the symbolisms in the ceremony and celebrations are more elaborate. In the East coast of Madagascar, in Mananjary, a collective circumcision ritual is celebrated every seven years by the Antambahoaka people. The last such "Sambatra" took place during October, 2007.
10 Top Tourist Attractions in Madagascar
- Ranomafana National Park
- Masoala National Park
- Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
- Avenue of the Baobabs
- Nosy Be
- Tsingy de Bemaraha
- Isalo National Park
- Ile Sainte Marie