Madagascar is a large unexplored Island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean with an incredible diversity of wildlife and flora endemic to Madagascar. Madagascar’s landscapes, people, beaches and undiscovered areas will delight those with a taste for discovery. A holiday to Madagascar can expose you to mountains, rain forest, dazzling beaches & coral reef surrounded by clear warm waters.

People Food And Culture of Madagascar

Madagascar Travel
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Fresh fruit and veg on salefriendly people  make visiting madagascar a joy
Food Culture &

Madagascar food
Rice is the staple diet of most Madagascans, usually accompanied by fish, chicken, meat, or vegetable sauce.

In hotels and restaurants the food has as strong French influence with local ingredients fish, chicken Zebu (Madagascar beef) and vegetables.

Madagascar Drink
All the usual soft drinks are available (coke, fanta etc) as well as fruit juices.
Madagascar beer is quite good a light refreshing lager style beer.
Wines are often imported from France (very expensive) and South Africa (quite expensive) local wine is cheap but very poor tasting !
Most spirits are available qlthough not always under a recognisable brand name.....

How a Tradtional Dinner is Served in Madagascar
The true Malagache serves his meal, as is done in most parts of Africa, on a mat on the floor. Everything is put down at the same time--but in the cities individual plates are used and the utensil is a large spoon (no knives or forks are used).

Dinner is a simple affair. There are no preliminaries such as snacks, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, or drinks. Guests are brought to the dining area and served directly. Today, you will find the Western influence appearing more strongly, and dining areas are being increasingly adopted.

Malagaches like their food simply prepared, flavorful, but as we have said, not highly spiced. Fruits and vegetables are utilized at their freshest, and it is not uncommon to start a meal with vegetable soup and then to serve two or three vegetables with the entree. The beverage that goes with the meal is Ranonapango, a drink made by burning rice--yes, actually burning the rice and adding water to it. (The recipe is given on page 93.)

The entree might very well be a chicken or fish curry, and it is usually one of the three rice meals each day. In Malagasy curries are prepared a little differently than in other countries.

The dessert is usually fruit, flavored with vanilla. Some call Madagascar the Vanilla Island as they call Zanzibar the Spice Island. The fruit is not only prepared with vanilla, but more vanilla is added to it when it is served.

Malagasy tea, their own special brand , completes a most nutritious meal.

Facts & Figures
National name: Repoblikan'i Madagasikara
Languages: Malagasy and French (both official)
Ethnicity/race: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Côtiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry: Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran
Religions: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Islam 7%
National Holiday: Independence Day, June 26
Literacy rate: 69% (2003 est.)

Dangers & annoyances
Travelling throughout Madagascar is not inherently dangerous. Petty theft is the main risk – do not keep your valuables in a pack or external money belt, and watch your pockets when in crowded areas. To avoid getting into trouble with the police, carry your passport with you at all times (a photocopy will not be sufficient).

Some areas along the coast are subject to danger from strong currents. Make sure to seek local advice before heading into the water. Mosquitoes are ubiquitous and malaria occurs here – wear insect repellent, especially at dawn and dusk.

A combination of packed, unroadworthy vehicles and reckless drivers makes taxi-brousse (bush taxi) travel potentially hazardous. To minimise the risks, try to avoid night travel if possible.

Madagascar is a reasonably hard place to travel with young children, so junior travellers are a fairly rare sight. Disposable nappies are available in Antananarivo’s supermarkets, but are hard to find elsewhere. Many hotels provide chambres familiales (family rooms) or double rooms with an extra single bed for parents with children.

Women travellers
Most women do not feel threatened or insecure in any way when travelling in Madagascar. The most you can expect is some mild curiosity about your situation, especially if you are single and/or don’t have children. Physical harassment and violent crime are very rare, and in fact male travellers face far more pestering from the hordes of prostitutes who frequent nightclubs.

Quick Madagascar History
Archaeological evidence suggests that Madagascar was uninhabited until about 1500 or 2000 years ago, when the first Indo-Malayan settlers arrived in coast-hugging craft that skirted the Indian Ocean. They brought traditions such as planting rice in terraced paddies, Southeast Asian food crops and linguistic roots buried in the subcontinent. The migration accelerated in the 9th century, when the powerful Hindu-Sumatran empire of Srivijaya controlled much of the maritime trade in the Indian Ocean.

European arrival & colonisation
Portuguese sailors named the island Ilha de Sao Lourenco, but like subsequent British, Dutch and French fleets they failed to establish a base here. European and North American buccaneers had notably more success, making Madagascar (and especially Île Sainte Marie) their base in the Indian Ocean during the 17th century.

Powerful Malagasy kingdoms began to develop with the growth of trade with European merchants. Most powerful of all were the Merina of the central highlands, whose chief, Ramboasalama, acquired the weaponry to subdue neighbouring tribes. His son Radama became king in 1810 and, sniffing the winds of fortune, entered diplomatic relations with the British in 1817 and allowed hundreds of Christian missionaries to enter the Merina court. However, his widow and successor, Ranavalona I, nicknamed ‘The Bloodthirsty’, passionately disliked all things vahaza (white); she persecuted the missionaries and ordered the execution of tens of thousands of her Malagasy subjects using barbarous and ingenious methods.

In 1890 the British handed Madagascar over to the French in exchange for Zanzibar. The French captured Antananarivo in 1895 and turned the island into an official colony in 1897. The French suppressed the Malagasy language, however they constructed roads, expanded the education network and abolished slavery. Resentment of the French colonial presence grew in all levels of society, and Nationalist movements had developed by the 1920s. Strikes and demonstrations culminated in a revolt in 1947, which the French suppressed after killing an estimated 80, 000 people and sending the rebel leaders into exile.

Nationalism & independence
By 1958 the Malagasies had voted in a referendum to become an autonomous republic within the French community of overseas nations. Philibert Tsiranana, leader of the Parti Social Democrate (PSD), became Madagascar’s first president, and allowed the French to keep control of most of Madagascar’s trade and industry. Tsiranana was forced to resign in 1972 and was succeeded by army general Gabriel Ramantsoa.

The socialist Ramantsoa made friends with China and the USSR, closed down the French military bases and collectivised the farming system, which led to an exodus of French farmers. The economy took a nosedive and Ramantsoa was forced to resign. His successor, Richard Ratsimandrava, lasted just one week before being assassinated by rebel army officers. They were almost immediately routed by Ramantsoa loyalists, and a new government headed by Admiral Didier Ratsiraka came to power.

The Ratsiraka years were characterised by more socialist reforms, but a debt crisis in 1981 and 1982 forced him to abandon the reforms and obey the IMF. In 1989 Ratsiraka was dubiously ‘elected’ to his third seven-year term, sparking riots that left six people dead. People were still demanding his resignation by 1991, and the ensuing demonstrations brought the economy to a standstill. In 1992 Malagasies voted in a referendum to limit the presidential powers. General elections were held that year, and Professor Albert Zafy thrashed Ratsiraka, ending his 17 years in power.

Years of communist-style dictatorship and economic mismanagement made it hard for Zafy to ignite the economy and gain the trust of the people. He was eventually impeached for abuse of constitutional powers (eg sacking his prime minister). Elections were called in 1996 and Ratsiraka surprised everyone by scraping a victory.

Madagascar today
In 2001 Madagascans went to the polls for the general elections. During the first round Marc Ravalomanana, a former yogurt seller and businessman, claimed victory, but Ratsiraka refused to accept the vote. Ravalomanana and his supporters mounted mass protests and a general strike at the beginning of 2002. A month later Ravalomanana went ahead and declared himself president anyway, sparking off clashes between rival supporters that nearly brought Madagascar to civil war. Bridges were destroyed, and Ratsiraka’s supporters blockaded Antananarivo, cutting off its fuel and food supply for weeks.

The Supreme Court held a recount of the votes and declared Ravalomanana the winner. When the US recognised Ravalomanana as the rightful president, Ratsiraka fled in exile to Paris. Ravalomanana’s ‘I Love Madagascar’ party sealed its popularity at parliamentary elections in December 2002. The new president set about reforming the country’s ruined economy, and announced salary increases for politicians in an effort to stamp out corruption. He generally made the right noises to the World Bank, which, along with France and the US, pledged a total of US$2.3 billion in aid. They, like millions of Malagasies, are hoping that Ravalomanana, a self-made millionaire, can help to finally fulfil Madagascar’s huge economic potential.

Ravalomanana has declared his intention of breaking French cultural influence on the country, and restoring Malagasy language and traditions. His actions to date have included the repair and maintenance of many main roads, a feat that won’t be lost on visitors, and keeping armies of Malagasies employed for months.

In Dec. 2006, Ravalomanana won reelection with 54.8% of the vote. In January 2007, he appointed Charles Rabemananjara as prime minister.
In January 2007, Ravalomanana appointed Charles Rabemananjara as prime minister.

Still the struggle for power goes on
After a bitter, three-month-long power struggle with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital, Antananariv, Ravalomanana resigned as president in March 2009. He handed power over to the military, which in turn transferred control to Rajoelina. The turmoil began when Rajoelina was elected mayor of the capital in December 2007, defeating the president's candidate. Tension peaked between the two in Dec. 2008 when Ravalomanana, becoming increasingly autocratic, shuttered the mayor’s television channel and radio station. Rajoelina then staged weekly protests that grew increasingly violent. In Feb. 2009, Ravalomanana fired Rajoelina as mayor. Thousands of the mayor's supporters took to the streets of the capital. The country spun further into chaos when some army officers mutinied and threw their support behind Rajoelina; others remained loyal to the president. On March 17, the president submitted to the apparent coup.

Negotiations continue
After weeks of talks hosted by the SADC - Southern African Developing Countries in Maputo (Mozambique) with all political parties of Madagascar it was finally agreed that new elections would be held in Madagascar in March or 2010.