W. Dry Forest
S. Rain Forest
S. Dry Forest
In a cataclysmic earthquake, Madagascar broke free from Africa about 165 million years ago. She spent the next 45 million years drifting approximately 250 miles to the northeast her present position.
The animals of Madagascar found plentiful foodstuffs, and an almost total lack of predators. Because evolutionary pressures on Madagascar's early inhabitants were almost nonexistent, the island literally teems with life forms that have changed little in hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. In many ways, Madagascar is literally a land that time forgot.
The first humans arrived on Madagascar around 2,000 years ago, most likely using outrigger canoes hailing from India, Africa, and Arabia. The newcomers were greeted by dense rainforests and an abundance of wildlife strange monkey-like creatures known as lemurs, dwarf hippos, giant tortoises, ten-foot tall elephant birds (their enormous, thousand-year old eggs are still being found to this day), and over 100 other exotic species of animal found nowhere else on earth.
Unfortunately for many of these creatures, the arrival of man represented their first encounter with a predator. It took almost 1,000 years, but skilled human hunters managed to drive almost two dozen of those unique and irreplaceable animal species to extinction.
Although they lived in tribes, the African, Indian, and Arabic races managed to avoid segregation. Over many hundreds of years, an incredible synthesis of tradition, religion, language, and genetics took place, creating a society remarkable in its uniformity of language and beliefs, and striking in its physical beauty.
In 1500, Portugese explorers landed on the island of Madagascar, did a little exploration, and returned to Europe. Word of the Portugese "discovery" spread to France and England, and both countries rushed to establish settlements on the island. The local tribes formed loose coalitions to succesfully defend themselves against the invading Europeans again and again.
In 1794, King Andrianampoinimerina managed to unite the various tribes of Madagascar, forming a single kingdom. Each of his subjects was given enough land to meet the nutritional needs of his family, and the practice of burning rainforests (to obtain additional land) was banned.
By 1817, Andrianampoinimerina's son, King Radama I, formed friendly relationships with the major European powers, and invited British missionaries to his country. Led by David Jones, the missionaries introduced the Roman alphabet and Christianity to Radama's subjects.
Immediately after Radama's death in 1828, his widow (Queen Ranavalona) took the throne. Referred to even to this day as the wicked queen, Ranavalona forced the missionaries out of Madagascar, and executed her subjects with a zeal never before seen in this land. Queen Ranavalona died in 1861, turning the reigns of power over to a succession of largely ineffective monarchs.
In 1883, the French attacked Madagascar. After almost three years of warfare, Madagascar became a French protectorate, and then, after a massive 1895 invasion by French forces, Madagascar became a full-fledged French colony. The monarchy was abolished, and French became the official language.
In 1958, the French elected a new President, Charles De Gaulle. De Gaulle immediately granted Madagascar its independence. The locals renamed their nation the Malagasy Republic, and elected Philibert Tsiranana President. A benign leader, Tsiranana was reviled by radical elements as a puppet of the recently departed French. Tiring of the vociferous protesters, Tsiranana finally stepped down in 1972. He was succeeded by Didier Ratsiraka, a naval officer.
Ratsiraka was re-elected twice, replaced briefly by Dr. Albert Zafy in 1991, and then re-elected a third time before losing a tumultuous election to Marc Ravalomanana, who was president from 2002 to 2009. He was forced out of office and replaced by Andry Rajoelina, who stepped down when elections were held in 2013. The first President of the 4th Malagasy Republic, inaugurated in 2014, is president Hery Rajaonarimampianina.
Madagascar, with its many quiet coves and its proximity to the Indian Ocean trade routes, was a haven for many of the fiercest pirates that ever sailed the seven seas. Tales of buried treasure and stories of the swashbuckling buccaneers' deeds and misdeeds have become a colorful part of the national folklore.
This is an incredibly detailed map of the island, carefully charted by pirates almost two hundred years ago.
Rice is the the staple of the Madagascar diet. The resourceful natives have developed literally dozens of delicious preparatory techniques for this plentiful grain. But the Malagasy diet is a varied one, and heaping mounds of rice are usually topped with zebu, an excellent local beef, as well as pork, chicken, crab, fish, corn, peanuts, and potatoes. Fresh fruits and vegetables abound. Spicy curries are popular, as are the numerous exquisite French dishes served at the island's finest restaurants and hotels.
When in Madagascar, you'll be urged to try the national snack: Koba, a pate of rice, banana, and peanut. Unless you're a fan of that peculiar combination of flavors, skip the Koba and order one of the island's famous seafood salads. You'll be handed a heaping plateful of luscious ginger-and-lime flavored crab and lobster meat, resting on a bed of fresh greens. Akoho sy voanio, a chicken dish prepared with rice and fresh coconut, is also quite delicious, as is the Foza sy hena-kisoa, a stir-fried crab, pork, and rice dish.
Want to prepare a mouthwatering Madagascar meal in the convenience of your own home? Here's an easy recipe to try:
Akoho sy voanio
Two cloves of garlic
20 grams of ginger
Oil, salt, pepper
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the tomatoes into small cubes. Set aside.
- Shred the coconut into a clean cloth. Fold the cloth around the shredded coconut.
- Wet the cloth using a glass of warm water. Squeeze the cloth and the shredded coconut to extract coconut milk. Discard the shredded coconut.
- If obtaining/shredding a fresh coconut is not possible, you may substitute a can of unsweetened coconut milk instead.
- Add a small amount of oil to a frypan. Saute chicken until done over medium heat.
- Add onions to the pan. Continue stirring over medium heat until the onions are brown.
- Add ginger, tomatoes, and garlic to the pan. Saute together briefly over medium heat.
- Add coconut milk. Mix well. Reduce heat.
- Simmer over low heat for thirty minutes.
- Serve with rice and salad. Enjoy!
Additional Recipes from the University of Pennsylvania:
Unlike most countries in Africa or, indeed, the world, all Malagasy people speak one language, Malagasy. This sophisticated language is a living synthesis of Austronesian, African, and Arabic elements, though the grammar is definitely Austronesian.
The British missionaries attempted to codify a written form using the letters of the Roman alphabet. The Malagasy alphabet is therefore quite similar to the English alphabet, with the following exceptions: The Malagasy alphabet is missing the letters C, Q, U, W, and X. The letter A is always short (as in watch). The letter E sounds like a long A (as in pace). The letter i is pronounced like a long E (as in bean). The letter J sounds like dz. Finally, the letter O sounds like oo, except in "ao" which is pronounced like the o in "nose". As a rule, in most words, it is the next-to-last syllable that gets stressed, and the final vowel is often not pronounced at all (or very faintly). The main exceptions are the words that end in na, tra or ka, in which it is the third-from-last syllable that is stressed (unless you see an accent inviting the speaker to place the stress elsewhere).
Here's a list of English phrases and the Malagasy translation:
Hello sir/madam Salama tompoko
Thank you Misaotra
Thank you sir/madam Misaotra tompoko
Thank you very much Misaotra betsaka
Please, ... Azafady, ...
Excuse-me, ... Azafady, ...
Is there ... ? Misy ... ve?
There is misy
There isn't tsisy
I'm hungry Noana aho
I'm thirsty Mangetaheta aho
I'm tired Vizako aho
Where is Aiza
How much? Ohatrinona