The Comoros Islands are an ecological paradise and an amazing vacation destination. These islands are enchantingly scattered across the Indian Ocean, making them the perfect vacation getaway spot. Located in the Mozambique Channel to the northwest of Madagascar, the Comoros Islands are well known for producing vanilla, cloves, and ylang ylang, an essential ingredient in perfume and other perfume essences. Because of these major crop exports, the islands are fondly referred to as the “perfumed islands.”
Comoros is made up of four islands: Anjouan, the Grande Comore, Mohéli and Mayotte. Mayotte is the only island amongst the clusters that still resonates a strong French influence, as it is still under French control.
History says that Comoros may have been inhabited by people of Malayo-Polynesian descent by the 5th or 6th century CE or even earlier. Others came from nearby Madagascar. French and Arabic influences are woven into the cultural fabric of the islands with most of its charming inhabitants also being descendants of Persian traders, Portuguese explorers and African slaves. This makes the Comoros Islands truly multicultural and multilingual.
The islands appeared on a European world map for the first time in 1527, when they were depicted by the Portuguese cartographer Diego Ribero. Historians believe that the first Europeans to visit the archipelago were Portuguese around the 16th century. Yet, until the 19th century, the dominant foreign influence in the islands remained Arabian.
In 1843, France officially took possession of Mayotte and placed the other three islands under its protection in 1886. Comoros, which was administratively attached to Madagascar in 1912, became an overseas territory of France in 1947 and was given representation in the French National Assembly.
But in 1961, a year after Madagascar gained its independence, the islands were granted internal autonomy. And while three of the islands voted for independence in 1974, most of the inhabitants of Mayotte preferred continuing French rule. On July 6, 1975, Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah — who was deposed later that year — declared the whole archipelago independent and Comoros was admitted to the United Nations, which recognized the integrity of the entire archipelago as one nation, despite the fact that France maintains control over Mayotte.
Today, although the Comoros Islands are a modern-day paradise, there is a grave history of political turmoil and international tragedy. As Face2Face Africa earlier wrote, the island is sometimes called Coup-Coup because of its rugged political history that includes almost 20 coup d’états since gaining independence from the French in 1975.
The Islands’ most famous international tragedy took place in 1996 when a plane from Ethiopian Airlines was hijacked by three Ethiopians and crashed. The crash killed 122 out of the 172 passengers on board the aircraft.
And after several coups, stability has improved as the country works to nip poverty in the bud with its president Azali Assoumani who has been in office since 2016. Most inhabitants make their living from subsistence agriculture or fishing, and exports include vanilla and essences used for perfumes.
The most common language spoken in the islands is known as “Shikomoro,” a language broken off from Swahili while formal education is given in French. Comorian people call their country Masiwa, “the islands,” or refer to the individual name of each island, according to the country profile by everyculture.com. The profile states that Zisiwa za Komor is a translation of the French words for the country. “Comoro” comes from the Arabic qumr (“the moon”) or qamar, “whiteness” as seen depicted on its flag.
The national emblem is the green flag with a crescent moon and four white stars that symbolize the four islands, including Mayotte. The names of Allah and the Prophet Mohammed were added to the flag in 1996. Indeed, there is a heavy Islamic influence in Comoros, therefore, drinking in public and underdressing is strictly prohibited. With these restrictions aside, the Comoros Islands are a perfect vacation spot for the relaxed and laid back.
The country with a population of just under one million made its mark at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon following its stunning win over Ghana, providing a first-ever Nations Cup win for a country that only joined world governing body Fifa in 2005. The national team of Comoros is nicknamed “the Coelacanths” (pronounced see-la-canths) after an endangered species of exotic fish found in the region.