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Madagascar Facts

Political Climate
Formerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French Colony in 1886 but gained independence from French rule 26 June 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held, ending 17 years of single-party rule. The president elected by popular vote serves a five-year term. A prime minister is appointed by the president from a list of candidates nominated by the National Assembly. The Legal system is based on French civil law and traditional Malagasy law and the judicial branch has a Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Constitutional Court or Haute Cour Constitutionnelle.

Madagascar split off Africa at least 160 million years ago. The island has an untouched coastline of white sanded beaches, coral inlets and the third largest coral barrier on earth. Large rivers from the west flow into the channel of Mozambique. Sub arid areas with thorny bushes in the south and the green hills in the highlands. The exotic landscapes and terrain also includes jungle in the East and dry forest in the west. There are Massifs at Isalo, strongholds of jagged tsiny in the limestrone.

~ Antananarivo

The official language is Malagasy. The acts of governments are published both in Malagasy and French. Many Malagasy speak French. Local newspapers in French are found in most important towns. There are not yet many English speakers, though more and more are found in the tourism industry. The thirteen million Malagasy though diverse are united by a common language, rooted in the ancient Malayo-Polynesian, ancestor of the tongues spoken in the vast area bounded by Hawaii, the Tuamotu and Madagascar. The modern language has been enriched by words imported from Bantu tongues, Swahili, Arabic, English and French.

The Malagasy currency is called Malagasy franc or Franc Malgache, abbreviated as FMG. Bills and coins are denominated either in francs or in a popularly-used unit called ariary, or both. One ariary equals five francs. Banks and numerous hotels and shops accept credit cards (Master Charge, Visa, American Express, Eurocard, Diner's Club, Carte Blanche) travelers checks and foreign currency.

People & Population
There are 18 main Malagasy tribes of Malaysian/Polynesian origin. Also French, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis and Comorans. The population as of 2003 is over 17 million with a growth rate of 2.5%. The main religions include Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and is a country rich in culture and traditional practices all of which lead towards a Supreme Being called "Zanahary", the Creator or Andrimanitra. There is a community approach with a rich oral tradition in music, sayings and speeches. Handicraft is colorful and in some regions the huts and household utensils display a unique sense of beauty.

Entry Requirements
Travelers must have a passport valid at least six months beyond arrival with at least two facing visa pages. A visa is also required and may be obtained by local embassies in Washington or the New York UN Mission. Outside of the US Embassys and Honorary consulates in Paris, London and Nairobi. To obtain the visa a signed & completed form, passport photo, copy of your roundtrip ticket, and fee.

Malaria medication: As Malaria is endemic through the country, prophylactics are recommended. Yellow Fever vaccination: required only if you travel through an infected country before entering Madagascar (children less than a year-old are exempted). Cholera vaccination: required only if you travel through an infected country before entering Madagascar (children less than six months-old are exempted).

Fixed telephones, fax and Inernet network as well as the public phones work well in he cities. The mobile system is very developed in urban areas with the possibility of roaming. To call Madagascar the country code is 261.

220 volts / 50 cycles, electric outlets match the French standard.