Facts & figures

Full name: Republic of Madagascar

Population: 21.9 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Antananarivo

Area: 587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles)

Major languages: Malagasy (official), French

Major religions: Indigenous beliefs, Christianity

Life expectancy: 65 years (men), 69 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: Ariary

Main exports: Vanilla, coffee, seafood, cloves, petroleum products, chromium, fabrics

GNI per capita: US $430 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .mg

International dialling code: +261





Hery Rajaonarimampianina was chosen as president in January 2014 in an election.


Visa & travel advice

All foreign visitors to the Republic of Madagascar require entry visas. For short visits (90 days or less), every visitor, regardless of nationality, can obtain a visa upon arrival at the airport in Antananarivo, provided the visitor's passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of the intended stay in Madagascar, and provided the visitor carries an airline-issued ticket or passenger receipt confirming the visitor's intention to leave Madagascar within 90 days.

  • Best period:

The best time to visit Madagascar is in late spring (April through May) and early autumn (September through October).

  • Safety:

The U.S. Department of State has described Madagascar as “by and large, safer than many other African countries and even certain U.S. cities.”


The Malagasy are of mixed Malayo-Indonesian and African-Arab ancestry. Indonesians are believed to have migrated to the island about 700. King Andrianampoinimerina (1787–1810) ruled the major kingdom on the island, and his son, Radama I (1810–1828), unified much of the island. The French made the island a protectorate in 1885, and then, in 1894–1895, ended the monarchy, exiling Queen Rànavàlona III to Algiers. A colonial administration was set up, to which the Comoro Islands were attached in 1908, and other territories later. In World War II, the British occupied Madagascar, which retained ties to Vichy France.

Arts & Culture

  • Music:

Malagasy music can be roughly divided into three categories: traditional, contemporary and popular music. Traditional musical styles vary by region and reflect local ethnographic history. For instance, in the Highlands, the valiha and more subdued vocal styles are emblematic of the Merina, the predominantly Austronesian ethnic group that has inhabited the area since at least the 15th century, whereas among the southern Bara people, who trace their ancestry back to the African mainland, their a cappella vocal traditions bear close resemblance to the polyharmonic singing style common to South Africa.[3] Foreign instruments such as the acoustic guitar and piano have been adapted locally to create uniquely Malagasy forms of music. Contemporary Malagasy musical styles such as the salegy or tsapika have evolved from traditional styles modernized by the incorporation of electric guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer. Many Western styles of popular music, including rock, gospel, jazz, reggae, hip-hop and folk rock, have also gained in popularity in Madagascar over the later half of the 20th century.

  • Literature:

There are only a few writers from Madagascar that have published novels. Moreover, all of these novels are written only in Malagasy or French. The following is a list of the authors names: Charlotte Rafenomanjato, Michele Rakotoson, Rabeavielo, and Rakotoson.  Fortunately, there are many short stories, poems, and plays that have been translated. Further, many other writers from counties such as the United States and France have traveled to Madagascar, lived on the island, and have written fiction novels.

When researching Madagascar literature, it is important to learn that while many 21st century non-fiction books suggest the island is an "African island," the people of Malagasy people do not draw their cultural influences from Africa. In fact, I have discovered that many Malagasy people do not like being grouped in with the continent of Africa and they wish their country could be its own continent.

Madagascar literature is rich with the elements of daily life. As well, the island is filled with animals and flora and the literature attempts to  truly emphasizes the Malagasy people's love for animals and plants.

  • Film industry:

Cinema was introduced to Madagascar early in the twentieth century to the happy (priveleged) few. In these days the French being the occupants, showed the same reels as in Europe. The French colonial goverment controlled the only cinema on the island, the municipal theatre of Antananarivo. In following years more screening rooms openend and with an increasing audience mostly Italian contractors distributed the movies. In 1930, the cinema was known and available in many areas of the island. The local production was limited to the amateur films of Catholic missionaries showing images of their religous or scientific trips.

In 1938 the first professional films were produced aiming to educate the illiterate locals. In 1947 Philippe Raberojo directed the documentary "Rasalama Maritiora", about a famous Malagasy Protestant martyr. This film is regarded the first locally produced film with shwoing the cutlure of Madagascar.

Only in 1950 the next two locally produced fiction films, "Itoeram-bolafotsy" and "La Bigorne", (but processed in France) were shot. During the sixties, after idependence, cinema was highy influenced by the African mainland. The only official institue at the time, the office of Educational Film and Culture tried to stimulate the realization of films with a national or at least African identity. ater the (socialist) political turmoil in 1972, the Malagasy screens showed mostly Italian westerns spaghettis or films of the Eastern European countries. During this period (lasting until 1985) some local films, dealing with political, cultural and social problems emerged; The Accident (1972) is the first medium-length fiction film by Benoit Ramampy - The Return (1973) is first Malagasy full-length film by Ignace Randrasana Solo and "Asakasaka" by Justin Limby Maharavo. Tabataba, a full-length film by Raymond Rajaonarivelo, was presented in 1988 at Carthage and Cannes. Between 1975 and 1990 cinema was fully State controlled, allthough no formal film industry existed. Coproductions with other countries were encouraged, but the censorship and influence of the government discouraged many potential investors.

Most local filmmakers in the seventies were employed by the TV networks, Tsilavina Ralaindimby, Naivo Rahamefy, Lucien Rajaona and Victor Raharijaona all made State guarded TV screenings. Non local filmmakers were merely attracted to the landscapes of the island than the potential of local filmmakers. At the end of the eighties many animal documentaries were filmed by Japanese (NHK), and British channels.

  • Famous places:

The Avenue of the Baobabs is a group of trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws tourists from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region. The Baobab trees, up to 800 years old, did not originally tower in isolation over the landscape but stood in a dense tropical forest. Over the years, the forests were cleared for agriculture, leaving only the famous baobab trees.


Considered one of the country’s most sacred spots by the Malagasy people for 500 years, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a historical village that was once home to Madagascar royalty. The wall that surrounds the village was made in 1847 and was constructed with a mortar made of lime and egg whites. The Mahandrihono compound includes the former home of King Andrianampoinimerina, with walls made of solid rosewood, and artifacts of the island’s great king, including drums, weapons and talismans.


Situated in the northeast Madagascar, the Masoala National Park covers nearly 250 miles of rainforest and includes three marine parks as well.


  • Architecture history:

There are several distinct styles of architecture. A vast majority of government buildings in the capital and regional urban centers were built during the colonial period showing a French influence. However, there are two distinct traditional architectural styles evident in the country. The style of homes built on the high plateau differs markedly from homes found elsewhere due to a heavy reliance on local materials. Homes on the high plateau tend to be multistoried and are constructed of mud bricks that are plastered with a hard drying mud coat that is then painted. Verandas are often made of elaborate scrolled woodwork. The countryside in this region has homes enclosed by ancient mud walls and newly constructed brick walls. Homes in coastal regions are often built on a raised platform in areas with high rainfall and on the ground in drier areas. These homes tend to be much smaller with one or two rooms and are made of bamboo-like materials. The type of materials used signifies a past or present economic status. In most cases, manmade materials such as corrugated metal or cement are more desirable than natural materials as they last longer and signify greater prestige.

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