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Ilakaka is a small town in the south west of Madagascar along Route Nationale 7, the main road linking the capital city Antananarivo to the port of Toliara. Twenty years ago, Ilakaka practically didn’t exist with barely 40 residents. In less than ten years, its population soared to 60,000 as people from all over Madagascar began flocking here in search of sapphires.

Sapphire was discovered in southern Madagascar in the late 1990s. Until then, Ilakaka was little more than a truck stop with a small collection of huts and a few dozen residents. When word of the discovery got out, Ilakaka swelled to tens of thousands of residents, and this sleepy hamlet became the sapphire capital of the world supplying nearly 50% of all the sapphires in the world.

ilakaka- madagascar-1

Photo credit: salymfayad/Flickr

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