Handicrafts include textiles such as lamba (traditional sarong-like cloths in various designs worn by women in a number of different ways, including as a sling for carrying their babies) and silk scarves, usually made from the rough silk of an endemic silkworm rather than the smooth silk more typically found abroad.
Crocheted and embroidered table cloths are also a popular product of the northern and central areas, especially Nosy Be and Tamatave. Good quality cotton T-shirts printed with Malagasy designs and slogans are found everywhere.
Wooden items are popular, either carved or with marquetry, including chessboards and boxes. The main centre for woodwork is Ambositra on the RN7 south of the capital. Wooden musical instruments include djembe drums and the valiha (Malagasy tube zither).
Most wooden handicrafts are made from palisander, rosewood or ebony, all precious slow-growing hardwoods being logged from the forests at an alarming rate, so there is an ethical issue with buying carved souvenirs.
Jewellery includes silver bracelets and items made from zebu horn and precious stones. Polished specimens of semi-precious minerals come in endless variety, betraying the country’s fascinating and diverse geology.
Toy cars and taxi-brousses handmade from recycled tins make for a particularly novel and colourful gift. They can be found on markets in the capital.
Other souvenirs include items woven from reeds, raffia, sisal and straw (including hats, bags and ornamental animals). Antaimoro paper, decorated with embedded dried flowers, is sold as sheets, notebooks, bookmarks, and even made into picture frames, purses and lampshades.
For those who prefer edible souvenirs, you will be offered vanilla pods, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves and other spices; there is locally produced chocolate too (look for the Robert brand). Malagasy wine is available although the quality is mostly rather mediocre.
Note that products incorporating flora or fauna, as well as gems and minerals, often require export permits. Consult the relevant ministry kiosk at the airport.