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All about the People and Eccentric Culture of Madagascar

Madagascar, located in East Africa, is considered the fourth largest island in the world. This island is composed of 18 different tribes, each with its unique and interesting traditions and customs. The natives of Madagascar are called the Malagasy people, who are referred to as both coastal people and highlanders. 

The 18 tribes of Madagascar are divided into 2 groups: the coastal people and highlander people, with 6 and 12 tribes respectively. Some of the coastal people include Merina, Betsileo, and Sihanaka. The Merina tribe is the largest group of the coastal people, which is also the dominant group. As for the highlanders, they include Bara, Bezanozano, Sakalava, and Antaifasy.

Madagascar is basically a melting pot of culture. Each tribe has its unique way of dressing and different traditions. Traveling to Madagascar, you will be able to experience the grandeur of the highland plateaus, the natural beauty of the rainforest, the volcanoes, and the incredible variety of marine life, including whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. 

The Malagasy People

Malagasy people are very family-oriented; they are extremely kind and welcoming. They love to feast and celebrate. As part of the celebration, they play traditional music and dance, which provides great entertainment for all visitors.

The Malagasy people are very religious. They have many different religions, including Christianity and Islam, but the majority of Malagasy people worship their ancestors, called Zanahary (spirits). The Zanahary is a secret society that believes the spirits can assist living family members. The ceremony is called the famadihana, which is performed for the Zanahary every 7 to 10 years.

The Rich Culture of Malagasy People

The Malagasy people have deep respect for their deceased family members, so they build tombstones high on the ground to memorialize them. They add an altar table made of stone to the tomb to show respect to the dead. 

A tomb will house the body of the dead for about a year and then it will be opened for the famadihana (the turning of the bones or day of the dead). Family members clean and rewrap the bones, then gather at the tomb to perform the ritual dances. After dancing, they carry it around the tomb seven times, after they have been symbolically cleansed.

The Malagasy Language

The Malagasy people speak a unique language, called Malagasy. It is not related to any other languages and is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian language family. The Malagasy language has a limited number of consonants but has a large number of vowels. It is a tonal language that has five different tones. The Malagasy language is spoken by over 18 million people in Madagascar.

All Malagasy people speak the official language of Madagascar, Malagasy, but they also speak French.

The Traditional Food in Madagascar

The cuisine of Madagascar reflects the island’s unique geographic location, tropical climate, and cultural diversity. In the tropical rainforest region, the main foods are bananas and rice. The cultivated land and the available water, however, are not sufficient for the island’s population. This has resulted in the widespread availability of cassava and tubers. The islanders have developed a tropical adaptation of the Malay, South Asian, and Arabic cuisines, as well as their own highly original cuisine.

Due to the variety of ethnicities found in Madagascar, there is a wide range of cuisine types. The Malagasy people grow various food products, including yams, cassava, bananas, rice, beans, and corn. Products that are brought from the mainland of Africa include millet, sorghum, and fonio. Those that are brought from Southeast Asia include coconuts, mangoes, and limes.


Traveling to Madagascar will give you the opportunity to experience the eccentric yet rich culture on this island. It is a great destination that will take you on an adventure and will spark your imagination and love of people and food. 

If you haven’t been to Madagascar before, then get ready and pack your bags because you are going to fall in love with this place! Travelers of Madagascar offers affordable Madagascar tour packages that will bring you to the most popular tourist places on the island. Let us take you on an adventure to Madagascar and experience the diversity of people and culture. Book your upcoming tours today!