Capital: Antananarivo, Population: 24,89M, Currency: Malagasy Ariary
Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island's diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.
The monarchy collapsed in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. Since 1992, the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo.
Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana is a Malagasy politician who has been President of Madagascar since January 2014. Once he was elected, Rajaonarimampianina holds the world record of the Head of State with the longest name (44 characters) as well as family name (19 characters).
Each of the many ethnic sub-groups in Madagascar adhere to their own set of beliefs, practices and ways of life that have historically contributed to their unique identities. However, there are a number of core cultural features that are common throughout the island, creating a strongly unified Malagasy cultural identity.
In addition to a common language and shared traditional religious beliefs around a creator god and veneration of the ancestors, the traditional Malagasy worldview is shaped by values that emphasize fihavanana (solidarity), vintana (destiny), tody (karma), and hasina, a sacred life force that traditional communities believe imbues and thereby legitimates authority figures within the community or family.
Other cultural elements commonly found throughout the island include the practice of male circumcision; strong kinship ties; a widespread belief in the power of magic, diviners, astrology and witch doctors; and a traditional division of social classes into nobles and commoners.
The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. The numerous dialects of Malagasy, which are generally mutually intelligible, can be clustered under one of two sub-groups: eastern Malagasy and western Malagasy.
French became the official language during the colonial period, when Madagascar came under the authority of France. In the first national Constitution of 1958, Malagasy and French were named the official languages of the Malagasy Republic.
Madagascar is a francophone country, and French is mostly spoken as a second language among the educated population and used for international communication.
Malagasy cuisine reflects the diverse influences of Southeast Asian, African, Indian, Chinese and European culinary traditions. The complexity of Malagasy meals can range from the simple, traditional preparations introduced by the earliest settlers, to the refined festival dishes prepared for the island's 19th-century monarchs.
Throughout almost the entire island, the contemporary cuisine of Madagascar typically consists of a base of rice served with an accompaniment (laoka). The many varieties of laoka may be vegetarian or include animal proteins, and typically feature a sauce flavored with such ingredients as ginger, onion, garlic, tomato, or coconut milk.
Locally produced beverages include fruit juices, coffee, herbal teas and teas, and alcoholic drinks such as rum, wine, and beer. Three Horses Beer is the most popular beer on the island and is considered emblematic of Madagascar.
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