Sanafah Emirate
Timeline: Principia Moderni III (Map Game)

OTL equivalent: Northern Madagascar
Flag of Sanafah Sanafah Seal
Flag Seal
Sanafah 1475
Sanafah in 1475
Capital Mahajanga
Largest city Mahajanga
Other cities Antisiranana, Sambava, Ambanja
Malagasy, Arabic
  others Swahili
Ethnic Group Sakalava
Demonym Sanafahi
Legislature Council of Elders
Chief of Sanafah Andrés
  Royal house: Ralofoaro
Emir Bakr III Rahasan
Established 1409
Independence from Mashriq
  declared 1457
Annexation to Madagasikara
  date 1482
Currency Sanafahi Ariary
The Sanafah Emirate, or more commonly called Sanafah, was a powerful Malagasy nation located on the northern third of OTL Madagascar, based primarily in the Sakalava culture and the influences of the former Mashriqi Sultanate. Sanafah was regularly in a number of dynastic and personal unions and controlled their sphere using the Madagasikara League which is based in Mahajanga.

In 1482, with the combination of Sanafah and Sakalava into the Empire of Madagasikara, the Sanafah Emirate ceased to exist as an independent state but was followed by its de jure successor, Madagasikara.


Note: For the Complete History of Sanafah and its successor, Madagasikara, see History of Madagasikara.

Sanafah had a vibrant, largely tribal and seafaring history. The people of Sanafah hailed from all reaches of the world, from Africa to the Near East, to India and the Indies. These unique historical aspects, which can be divided into four main periods, define the unique Madagasikaran culture.

Ethnic map of Madagascar


Oral legends from Sanafah, and the entire Malagasy island, state that their history come:

"From the early years of the lands of mountain, lands of jungle, lands of beach, there have been our people on the Mother Island. From across the sea came great numbers of our people, from faraway islands. In canoes, they came. These were the Ntaolo, the forerunners."

These first arrivals, according to oral legends of the Sanafah people, landed at the site of Antsiranana, the second-largest city of the Emirate of Sanafah.

It is also recorded in the oral history that traders from Omanis and Shirazis managed to make trips to Sanafah, and established a number of small towns along the coast, like Antsiranana and Mahajanga. At the same time, the Swahilis and Bantu people began to trade with the locals, who were profitting from the large trade center they had become.

The Sanafah Emirate came from the Sakalava cultural group and Islamic and Arabic influences. The Sakalava consolidated control over the western coast of the island, as well as the northern tip of the island. Meanwhile, the Merina people dominated the mountainous central reaches of the island.

In 1408, the Mamluk sailor and explorer Halil bin Sana, on his way back to the Mamlukean city of Suez from voyages into southern Africa, was reported to have discovered a large island off the African coast. This island would end up being Madagasikara.


This time era was considered to be the period when Sanafah was a colonial vassal of the Mamluk or Mashriqi Sultanate. It began immediately following the re-discovery of Madagascar by Halil bin Sana in 1408, which triggered the creation of a colonial state at the north of the island. The Sanafah Emirate was established as a trading outpost on the northern tip of Madagascar by Arab traders from the Mamluk Sultanate, and was largely funded by traders from the Swahili states, which looked to expand their markets. 

Large-scale conversion began to take place on the island, radiating from Sanafah. The creation of the Grand Sultanate of the Mashriq in 1444 led to tighter control over vassal states, including Sanafah. Sanafah, as with most the Grand Sultanate, underwent a number of minor political instabilities during the transition from 1444 to 1457, when the Grand Sultanate collapsed.

In 1457, it became clear that the Grand Sultanate was crumbling underneath its own weight. The extremely popular Grand Sultan, Ahmed-ad-Din Yusuf, died early that year, at only the young age of 29. Without a son to make a strong legal claim, the local emirs and generals seized control over individual localities.

By the end of 1457, it became clear to the citizens of Sanafah that the government of the Sultanate had fallen. Further divisions of the nation continued into the next years, but on August 15, 1457, the Emir of Sanafah declared independence for Sanafah. Since then, no successor state to the Mashriqi Grand Sultanate has challenged Sanafahi independence.


Dhow in Zanzibar
After independence in 1457, Sanafah underwent a minor Civil War. This war pitted the Emir against the local Sakalava Chieftain, and saw the creation of the diarchial system of government. With this new system of government, Sanafah had more future abilities for possible unions, as the Chieftain would go on to inherit the Sakalava lands in 1461 and the Emir would establish his control over the Comoros in 14__.

Meanwhile, other forms of expansion occupied the national attention. The first type of expansion was that of infrastructure, population, and technology. The Council of Elders organized the first "modern" navy by constructing Mashriqi-influenced dhows, which improved the navy of canoes, which was pre-eminent in the early era of the region.

Additionally, cities gained new infrastructure. Starting in the capital city of Mahajanga and spreading to Antisiranana and other cities, the cities of Sanafah had ports and a road system built. Slash-and-burn tactics opened new lands up for settling.

Additionally, colonization of Dina Morgabin and Dina Arobi took place, as well as the vassalization of Sofala.


Wood carving of Santa Julia de Merida

Wood carving of Santa Julia de Merida

The year 1471 in Sanafahi history is one of the most important dates. It was in 1471 that the Castillian vessel Santa Julia de Merida was stranded on the shores of the nation of Sofala and then brought to the city of Sofala to begin repairs. Repairs extended into 1472, at which time the ship left and returned to the rest of the fleet.

Following these major developments, Western Christianity began to spread in Sanafah like wildfire, creating tensions between local chiefs and Emir Bakr III. As Andrés became Chief of Sanafah, tensions skyrocketed even more, and war became inevitable as Bakr III fled to the Comoros Sultanate, abandoning Sanafah and giving Andrés the needed motive to declare war and create the Empire of Madagasikara, by integrating his holdings - Betsileo and Sanafah.

Associated States

See Also: Territories

While all of these pages will (hopefully) all get their own page at some point in time, for now all associated states will be listed and described (in brief) here.


  • Dina Morgabin - Colony of Sanafah (Reunion)
  • Dina Arobi - Colony of Sanafah (Mauritius)
  • Pembara - Colony of the Comoros (Pemba, Mozambique)


  • Sakalava - Personal Union under Tiavina Ralofoaro (since 1461)
  • Betsileo - Dynastic Union under Tiavina Ralofoaro (since 1461)
  • Comoros - Dynastic Union under Amaar Rahasan (since 1458)


  • Sofala - Vassal of Sanafah (since 1465)
  • Bezanozano - Vassal of Betsileo (since 1463)


Prior to the Arab arrival at Sanafah, the region was governed by a system of clan-based confederacies, which approximately were equal to a major ethnic group. The natives of Sanafah were governed by the patriarch of their family, who then belonged to a council of clans at a tribal level.

With the Arab arrival, however, an emir, was placed over the Sanafahi locals. This emir was a Malagasy convert to Islam who had been educated in the Mamluk Sultanate. He ruled with near total authority but was backed by a large foreign power so was in a secure position.

With the fall of the Mashriqi Sultanate and the Sanafahi Civil War, the Emir of Sanafah was forced into becoming the co-ruler of the Sanafahi Emirate alongside the Chief of the Sakalava people. Both the Chief and the Emir lead foreign affairs in their own respective areas of knowledge and influence.

To govern the internal structure of the nation, however, a Council of Elders was also established at the end of the Civil War. The Council is made up of local patriarchs and nobles from tribal regions as well as more developed cities, and handles issues of domestic affairs.


The Sanafahi military is composed of two components - the Army and the Navy. In total, about 20,000 men serve in a branch of the Sanafahi military, which is comprised of only volunteer militia troops.

The Sanafahi Army is considered to be the strongest on Madagascar, and is probably among the top armies of the Swahili Coast. The troops, although lacking the latest technology, employ devastating guerrilla tactics and fight in heavy jungles to gain the advantage.

Additionally, a number of animals that are endemic to Madagascar, such as the giant fossa, are trained for military use, which is crippling to attacking forces.


Sanafah Fields
The Sanafahi economy was largely based in agricultural industries, which was defined to include logging and fishing enterprises in addition to traditional crop-growing and ranching enterprises.


With the arrivals of civilization in the form of the Austronesians and Bantu people, agriculture became a major industry in the Malagasy region. The major products of Sanafah are vanilla, coffee, cotton, and tobacco. Other produce include spices like pepper, clove, groundnut, and lychee.

All of these good make the Sanafahi economy vibrant as many of these items are desired in Europe, notably pepper and vanilla. Agriculture in Sanafah is based around the climate, which is generally conducive to growing food. The rainfall in the east, however, proves best suited for agriculture.

Zebu in Madagascar

Livestock and Fishing

The livestock of Sanafah is based primarily upon poultry and zebus.

The fishing industry of Sanafah, though relatively primitive, provides great variety to many Sanafahi diets. Among local fish include tilapia and carp, while prawn and shrimp also abound in waters off of Sanafahi coasts. The fishing industry is especially strong in the western side of the island.


Logging in Sanafah is both a necessity and an industry. Slash-and-burn tactics have been used for centuries to clear the dense forests for human settlement, but in recent years the logs on the island have been put to better use in the emerging logging industry.

Some types of wood that are commonly logged for profit include ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. Additionally, baobab and mangrove logging are just starting in Sanafah.


Sanafahi culture was a combination of three main cultures - Austronesian, Bantu, and Arabic. The primary Sanafahi language was a dialect of the Sakalavan language, which itself was a hybrid of Bantu and Austronesian tongues, with decent amounts of Arabic influences.

During the time of the Emirate of Sanafah, the primary religion was Sunni Islam, as brought by the arrival of the Mamluk Sultanate. The commonly practiced sect of Sunni Islam was Assafi'ism, but this faith gained little traction on the island until the spread of the "Satanic Verses" which in turn created a frenzy of conversions to paganistic Islam.

Towards the end of Sanafah's existence as an independent nation, it experienced a cultural shift as Spanish and Latinized Malagasy picked up in popularity. For the first time ever, the Malagasy language could be written and we expressed in the Latin alphabet. This change would carry over into Madagasikara.


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