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Malagasy are the ethnic group that set up most of the population of Madagascar. They are divided in two categories, the coastal dwellers and the highlanders. If the highlanders are established around Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa and Alaotra, the coastal dwellers will be found elsewhere the country. But there is some debate over who first settled Madagascar. Was it the black Africans or the Indonesians?
This debate would be too long and we will never reach to a satisfying conclusion. What we know for sure is that there is also an African and Arab element to the population. The ethnic groups living in Madagascar include the Merina, Betsileo, Betsimisaraka, Antaimoro, Tsimihety and Sakalava. Although Malagasy people have different racial characteristics, they share the same culture and language. Those who hear Malagasy language for the first time will soon determine it is similar to a dialect spoken in Borneo. They express very poetical, with plenty of metaphors and images.
Malagasy strongly believe in the power of dead ancestors. Their culture is rich in taboos and superstitions because they want to obtain the approval of the Razana, which is the immortal spirit of the soul that leaves the body. Almost one half of the population believes in God, but it is not uncommon for them to worship nature spirits or secondary gods as well.
Even those who have been converted to Christianity and Islam follow and practice the traditional rituals. In fact, Malagasy people still wear their traditional clothing, which is known as lamba. Whether the wrap it around their shoulders, as a shawl or they wear it as a sarong, they will wear lambas at special occasions, on a daily basis and even when they will be buried.
The mixed origins of the Malagasy resulted in an impressive mix of cultures that draw from Africa, India, Asia and the Middle East. Visit Madagascar and convince yourself that the Malagasy people are amazing!