town and major port, northwestern Madagascar. It lies on the island's northwest coast, at the mouth of the Betsiboka River, whose estuary widens there into Bombetoka Bay. The town was the capital of the 18th-century kingdom of Boina. The French occupied Mahajanga in 1895 at the beginning of their conquest of Madagascar. The town's old sector is confined mainly to the harbour quarter and has some 19th-century Arabian houses. The town's modern buildings include a Roman Catholic cathedral, a Protestant meeting place, and a mosque. The University of Mahajanga, founded in 1977 as a regional centre of the University of Madagascar, became independent in 1988. A transshipment port, Mahajanga is linked by road with Antsiranana and with the national capital, Antananarivo, about 225 miles (360 km) south-southeast. An airport is nearby. Mahajanga's industries include the processing of agricultural products, meat canning, and the manufacture of soap, sugar, and cement. Immigrants from Comoros were almost as numerous in the town as the Malagasy until 1976-77, when most of the former were repatriated to Comoros following riots in Mahajanga. The Comorien population has increased again, and the town also has a substantial Indian merchant population. Fishing, cattle raising, and hardwood lumbering are important in the surrounding area, and coffee, rice, sugarcane, cashew nuts, cassava, cotton, and raffia palms are cultivated. Pop. (1993 prelim.) town, 100,807.
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