General Knowledge

10 worth-knowing and amazing facts about Madagascar

Madagascar is an interesting country. It’s located in the east of the Africa – what makes it interesting, is its location in the sea. It’s an island. It’s rightly said that Madagascar is a hidden paradise which is mostly unknown to the world. However, as you are reading this article, I’ll try to make sure that you learn some of the best facts about Madagascar.

1. Madagascar was a French colony

The first thing about Madagascar island is – it has a colonial past. Marco Polo was the guy who named Madagascar. All hale the Portuguese, who arrived here. Yes, I know about Henry the Navigator, the guy who was pretty interested in exploring the world. However, what’s interesting is that poor Portuguese were only meant to discover the Madagascar.

It were the French who actually colonised it. Later, in 1960 Madagascar became free of the imperial power France – it got freedom. Like most of the African countries, 1960s was a good period for Madagascar.

2. Malagasies believe in ancestors, taboo and myths

Before you put your enlightened brain at work, respect their culture – they believe in taboo, myths, magic and their ancestors. It doesn’t mean that you also need to have the same beliefs. You might question, “What is the religion prevalent in Madagascar?” Well, it’s Christianity. All thanks to those missionaries which were sent due to White Man’s Burden. Or more specifically, God, Glory and Gold.

However, there is one thing cultural prevalent in Madagascar. The modern day Malagasies believe that their dead ancestors are a part of their family. Some also bury their ancestors in high places, to bring them closer to the heaven. In case you want to learn more about Madagascar and its burial rituals, a travel blog explains it pretty well. Families also dance with the dead bodies of their relatives, and often take pictures.

3. Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island

Interestingly Madagascar is an island. It’s not connected to the rest of Africa through landmass rather through the sea. It comes fourth in size after Greenland, Papua New Guinea and Borneo. It has a coastline of around 5,000Km. It has an area of 226,917 square miles.

Madagascar can be spotted in the lower right corner – Pic: Wikimedia

4. Once, Madagascar had a mad queen, named Ranavalona I

In the past, monarchies were spread around in the world, Madagascar had one which is often deemed as mad in nature. The queen born in 1788, did pretty much everything to embolden her Rein of Terror. No, not that French Rein of Terror, but the Madagascar one. During her 33 year rule, she failed many efforts of Europeans to have a hold on Madagascar. Further, Queen Ranavalona used her efforts to break the back of Christians, rivals and surrounding kingdoms. She used slave labour to build palace and construct public structure.

Ranavalena used Tangena ordeal to decide the fate of an accused. Poison was ingested by the accused and three pieces of chicken’s skin was also regurgitated, pushing it down the throat. The outcome decided the fate of the accused. For instance, if all the three skins were vomited up, then the accused was free to go. In other case, if he failed to eat the above mentioned ingredients, he was a convicted criminal.

Palace of Queen Ranavalona can still be visited in Madagascar

5. Madagascar is a home to a number of species

Those who have a strong liking for nature might want to know this fact about Madagascar – the country is pretty rich in species. Hundreds of species found in the world are actually present in her. Since, the island was isolated from the mainland Africa; therefore, it gave it ample time to breed its amazing species.

The famous lemur, which children might be used to watching in cartoons, is found in Madagascar. There are around 70 species and sub-species of lemur in the country. Further, 346 species of reptiles are found in the island, strange that it’s the highest number reptile species found anywhere on earth. Further, it hosts the word’s biggest chameleons called as Parson’s chameleon as well as the smallest; the dwarf chameleon of Brookesia. Diversity is pretty amazing and it shows that flora and fauna of Madagascar is worth exploring. There are rainforests on the island which help it maintain the diverse species of animals and plants.

The strange Octupus tree and other spiny plants are pretty much found in the country. In case you are interested in knowing the flora and fauna of Madagascar, visit panda.org detailed exploration note.

6. Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world

No doubt the country is pretty rich in nature and also in geographical features like the available area. Despite all the available richness, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. In Africa, Nigeria has the highest GDP and definitely it can be counted among the richest countries, on the contrary Madagascar has a GDP of merely $18 bn, as counted by World Bank in yearly 2018 survey. It has a population of 26 million, as of 2018.

Exports: In the modern day economy, export oriented countries perform well, Madagascar has a yearly export of merely $3bn. WITS shows that between 2014-2017 Europe and particularly France was the largest receiver of the Madagascar exports.

7. Madagascar is one of the largest exporters of Vanilla

The country might have a weak GDP and a weaker economy; however, it has one thing which the world needs – Vanilla. In 2016, Madagascar was the largest producer of vanilla, followed by Indonesia. However, it’s a fact well known that vanilla is the second most costly spice in the world, after saffron. As a result, it’s also pretty much volatile and expecting high profits is sometimes a hard bet. Its price fluctuates between $300-$500 per kg.

A surprised woman sorting vanilla in Madagascar

Madagascar exports are largely dependant on agriculture. Further, unwrought nickel and cobalt is also extracted from its land.

8. Madagascar is a republican

Government of Madagascar in current times is a republic in nature; further it has a legal system which finds its roots in old customs and French laws. It has a bicameral legislature system, as used in a majority of common wealth states. Further, the country is divided into six provinces (Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara Province).

9. The country has a few World Heritage Sites

The article wouldn’t be completed if Madagascar and its heritage sites are not taken into consideration. A 500-year-old burial site called Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, rainforests in Atsinanana and Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve are some of the well known heritage sites in Madagascar.

Ambohinmanga Royal Hill: It’s considered to be a symbol of cultural identity. It’s a remanent of the Kingdom of Imerina. For those who don’t know, Imerina is a burial site of several monarchs. It’s surrounded by a wall. The literal meaning of Ambohinmanga is sacred; therefore it collectively means sacred hill.

Astana Rainforests: As already described, Madagascar is a home to a diverse flora and fauna. These rainforests support a large number of species.

Tsingy de Bemeraha Strict Nature Reserve: The literal meaning of Tsingy means a place where one should not walk bare footed. It’s a pretty famous forest of limestone, the erosion patterns has created a needle like field.

Forest of Limestone in Madagascar

10. Bare Knuckle Bouts in Madagascar is like a national sport

Although, rugby is the national sport of Madagascar; however, bare knuckle bouts is pretty much popular. It’s so popular that it should replace rugby as the national sport. It’s a form of bare-fisted combat sport which in local language is known as Moraingy. So, do you think you are an outlaw? No, Malagasies can do better.

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