Capital | Antananarivo
Population | 21,281, 844
(July 2010 est)
Area | 587, 040 sq km
Official language | Malagasy, French
Holidays | Independence Day, 26 June (1960)
Currency | Malagasy ariary (MGA)
Time Zone | UTC+3
Best time to visit | April to October (winter – or for an authentic pirate experience, the 17th century when more than 1,000 pirates were based on Madagascar’s east coast.
Connecting with the Culture | Kicking back in Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro), with its windswept coastline and picturesque mountain backdrop. Sailing out to ile Sainte Marie – a former haunt of pirates. Spotting lemurs at Pacr National de Montagne d’Ambre. Exploring the lush rainforests of Pacr National de Ranomafana. Trekking in the beautiful Masoala Peninsula.
Read | 'Madagascar, Island of the Ancestors’, by John Mack, a superb ethnographic overview of Malagasy culture.
Listen | to Paul Bert Rahasimanana (`Rossy’) – check out `Island of Ghosts’ or `Bal Kabosy’.
Watch | Raymond Rajaonarivelo’s `Quand les Etoiles Rencontrent la Mer (When the Stars Meet the Sea)’ the story of a boy born during a solar eclipse; `Angano…Angano…Tales from Madagascar”, a documentary in the oral Malagasy tradition.
Eat | vary hen’omby (rice served with stewed or boiled zebu) or Malagasy cheeses (made from zebu cow’s milk)
Drink | betsa-betsa (fermented sugar cane juice) or punch aux cocos (rum and coconut milk punch)
In a word | Manao ahoana ianao (How do you do?)
Characteristics | Lemurs, pirates; zebu drawn carts; fourth largest island in the world; trekking.
Surprises | Madagascar’s teeming fertile forests and geographical isolation have served to preserve `nature’s design laboratory’ in a mix found nowhere else on earth. Madagascar’s forests are a shimmering, seething mass of trees and quirky creatures from nature’s bag of tricks; where over half the world’s chameleon species are found, along with periwnkles, baobobs, aloes, geckoes, sifakas and octopus trees. According to vintana belief, Friday (which is associated with nobility) is considered a good day to be born whil Thursday is associated with servitude.
NEWS ABOUT MADAGASCAR
Madagascar Battles TB Outbreak
(HN, 7/14/12) - After enduring 6 months of pain that grew so intense she could no longer work, Perline Razanadravao finally decided to go with her equally sick baby to see a doctor. "I had pain everywhere, in my muscles," said the 26-year-old rice grower. She went first to the local health centre near her home village of Lakatu, Madagascar which sent her to the nearest clinic on the outskirts of Moramanga, a town in the east of the country. That meant a 6-hour walk, with 9-month-old Jeudi coughing & suffering from diarrhea along the way. There, doctors told her that they are part of Madagascar's growing tuberculosis problem. Last year alone 26,700 people contracted TB, according to the health ministry, a jump of more than 16% compared with 2009, when a military coup precipitated an economic crisis as donors suspended aid to 1 of the world's poorest countries. (Read more at AFP)