From The Hippo’s Ears: The Comoros

Facts you may not have know about The Comoros:

The Comoros (جزر القمر/Juzur al-Qumur/Qamar), officially officially the Union of the Comoros (Umoja wa Komori/الاتحاد القمري/Union des Comores) is an island country in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa between northeastern Mozambique, the French region of Mayotte, and northwestern Madagascar.

Comoros is a federal presidential republic, and gained independence from France in 1975.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

Common greetings include “how are you?” (“yedje?”), and “news?” (“bariza?”).  Some may choose to greet with “your health?” (“E ngawe mnono?”).

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

The most common language in the Comoros is Comorian, or Shikomori. It is a language related to Swahili, with four different variants (Shingazidja, Shimwali, Shinzwani and Shimaore) being spoken on each of the four islands. Arabic and Latin scripts are both used, Arabic being the more widely used, and an official orthography has recently been developed for the Latin script.

Arabic and French are also official languages, along with Comorian. Arabic is widely known as a second language. French is the administrative language, and the language of all non-Quranic formal education.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Comoros. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings – this is part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Zanzibar’s taarab music remains an influential genre on the islands, and a Comorian version called twarab is popular. Popular bands include Sambeco and Belle Lumière, and popular singers include Chamsia Sagaf and Mohammed Hassan.

Popular Comorian instruments include the ‘oud (a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument) and violin (the most frequent accompaniment for twarab), as well as gabusi (a type of lute), and ndzendze (a box zither).

For a taste of music from Comoros, listen to Chamsia Sagaf’s Miyandi.

Harbor in Moroni, Comoros.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Some of the more common types of dances are the wadaha (a type of women’s dance), the chigoma (danced by men), and the diridji (a dance where the men dance around a table). These dances can be seen at the annual Grand Mariage festival on the island of Mohéli.

Watch traditional Comorian dancing here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

New Year

Both New Year’s days (January 1st and the Islamic New Year) are celebrated with much gusto in the Comoros. The Islamic New Year is of particular interest as it is marked by a wide range of activities that embrace the local culture and traditions, including religious rituals.

Independence Day

Comorians celebrate independence each year on July 6, recognizing the islands’ freedom from colonialism. Like other events on the islands, the festivities are marked with good food, cultural presentations and merriment.

Grand Mariage

This festival is held each year, around July, on the island of Mohéli. Food, music, and dancing are on show at this festival. Comorians generally have two weddings – a small, private ceremony, and the grand wedding. The grand wedding is a momentous occasion, and costs many households a lot of money. It is a representation of social standing, and much preparation is put into the group event.

9. What are the seasons like?

The climate is generally tropical and mild, and the two major seasons are distinguishable by their rain levels. The temperature reaches an average of 29–30 °C (84–86 °F) in March, the hottest month in the rainy season (called kashkazi/kaskazi [meaning north monsoon], which runs from December to April), and an average low of 19 °C (66 °F) in the cool, dry season (kusi [meaning south monsoon], which proceeds from May to November). The islands are rarely subject to cyclones.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Azali Assoumani has held the office since May 2016. Previously, he was President from 1999 to 2002 and again from 2002 to 2006. He became leader of the Comoros on 30 April 1999 after leading a coup to depose acting president Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde, who he saw as pandering to the independence movement on Anjouan.

Azali was born in 1959 at Mitsoudjé, in south-western Grande Comore. Between 1977 and 1980, he trained at the Royal Military Academy in Morocco and qualified as a parachutist.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The Comoros’ major industries include spice production, essential oil production, and the dismantling of ships. Iron and gold are also exported.

12. What are some of the things visitors can look forward to experiencing?

Major tourist attractions include visiting Mount Karthala, Moheli Marine Park, Bouni Beach, Lac Salé, and beaches on the island of Mohéli.

Moroni port, in Comoros.

13. What is a popular local drink?

A popular drink is coconut milk. The islands are strictly Islamic, so alcohol is not common.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Popular Comorian dishes include mkatra foutra (fried unleavened bread, made with coconut water), pilaou (a highly-spiced meat and rice dish), m’tsolola (fish and green plantains stewed in coconut milk), and achard aux legumes (lightly pickled vegetable salad).

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following?

Comoros uses the Comorian franc (KMF). (1 USD = approximately 444 CFA).

Lunchtime meal (including a drink): 5,000 KMF
Apples (1 kg): 1,000 KMF
Milk (1 l): 650 KMF
Cappuccino: 3,500 KMF

16. Any general safety tips?

  • Crime levels are low, but it is still advisable to be vigilant.
  • Avoid walking alone at night on beaches or in town centers.
  • Safeguard valuables and cash. Use hotel safes, wherever applicable. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport, in a separate place.
  • On Grande Comore, the main round-island road is of a reasonable standard, but some other roads are in a poor condition.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Hadhari Saindou Djaffar, a sprinter who competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia as well at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece in the 100 meter dash.
  • Mohamed Ahmed-Chamanga, a Comorian writer, researcher, and professor. He has worked mainly to make known his Comorian culture, and in 2006 he was candidate for his country presidential election. He currently teaches at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris, France.
  • Mohamed Attoumane, a swimmer who specialized in sprint freestyle events. Attoumane represented Comoros at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]. Image sources: [1], [2], [3].