Located between the island of Madagascar and the African continent, the tiny nation of Comoros sticks out its neck with its sandy beaches, colorful culture, and turbulent history. Comoros and its capital Moroni are often undeservedly overlooked. Here are some interesting facts about Comoros.
Facts about Comoros
1. The nation of Comoros actually consists of 3 different islands.
Officially, the country of Comoros consists of 3 individual islands. These islands are Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), and Ndzuani (Anjouan). In addition, the country also extends to a few smaller islets, bringing the total area to 1,861 km2 (719 sq mi) – one of the smallest countries in the world.
2. Comoros lays claim to the island of Mayotte.
One of the major islands in the Comoros Archipelago, Mayotte, is not part of the nation of Comoros. Instead, it is an official overseas territory of France. Mayotte was purchased by France in 1841 while the remainder of the archipelago came under French rule at the Berlin Conference in 1885. When Comoros gained independence in 1975, the people of Mayotte voted to remain in France in two separate referenda – the only island in the archipelago to do so. Nevertheless, Comoros considers Mayotte to be part of its union.
3. The closest neighboring country to Comoros is France.
One fun fact about the African island nation of Comoros is that its closest neighbor is actually France. This results from the above-mentioned island of Mayotte remaining in France as an overseas department. The distance between the two nations is only 175.9 km (109.3 mi). Apart from Mayotte, Comoros shares maritime borders with Madagascar, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Seychelles.
4. The highest peak in Comoros is Mount Karthala.
As a volcanic island chain, Comoros is not nearly as flat as many other island nations. In fact, the country’s highest peak, Mount Karthala, is an active volcano and reaches a height of 2,361 m (7,746 ft). Interestingly, the volcano last erupted only in 2005. It is one of the most active volcanos in the world.
5. Comoros is the biggest producer of ylang-ylang in the world.
Ylang-ylang is the flower of the cananga tree from which essential oils are extracted for the production of perfume. Approximately 50 kg (110 lb) of flowers are needed to produce 1 l of oil. Considering its size, one of the most surprising facts about Comoros is that the country is actually the world’s biggest producer of ylang-ylang. About 80% of the world’s supply comes from Comoros.
6. The 3 official languages of Comoros are Comorian, French, and Arabic.
Comoros is a multilingual country. Its three official languages are Comorian, French, and Arabic. There are also some unofficial minority languages such as Malagasy and Swahili. Out of the three official languages, Comorian (or otherwise known as Shikomoro) is the most commonly spoken language. Interestingly, until today, there is no official orthography of Comorian as its use was also frowned upon under French rule.
7. The main religion in Comoros is Islam.
The dominant religion in Comoros is Sunni Islam. In fact, it is estimated that about 99% of the population follow it. As such, Comoros is the only country in Southern Africa with a Muslim majority. Abandoning Islam and converting to another religion is prohibited in Comoros and carries the death penalty. Only a tiny Christian minority remains in the country.
8. Comorians are mostly of African-Arab origin.
Comorians are an interesting mix of African and Arab origin. Minorities include Malagasy people from Madagascar, a small Indian community, a more recently established Chines community, as well as a few Creole people of French descent.
9. The flag of Comoros reflects its culture and geography.
The flag of Comoros is fairly colorful and consists of 4 bands as well as a triangular feature and a crescent and stars. The four bands in the colors yellow, white, red, and blue represent the 4 (including Mayotte) islands of Comoros. The star and crescent on the green chevron stand for the country’s main religion, Islam.
10. The currency used in Comoros is the Comorian franc (KMF).
During the French reign, Comoros used the French Franc as its currency, followed by the Malagasy franc. An interesting fact about the modern Comorian Franc is that it is subdivided into 100 centimes, although no centime coins or notes have ever been issued.
11. Someone attempts a coup in Comoros every two years.
Since its independence in 1974, Comoros has seen over 20 coups d’etat or attempted coups, averaging out to a coup almost every 2 years. This has also led to the assassination of several heads of state, including the country’s first president Ahmed Abdallah. In fact, it appears that the president of Comoros narrowly escaped an assassination attempt as late as April 2020.
12. Comoros is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
With a population of 850,000, Comoros has one of the smallest populations in the world. However, considering its small size of only 1,861 km² (719 sq mi), Comoros is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
13. Comoros means “moon”.
The name “Comoros” is derived from the Arabic word Qamar which means “moon”. Initially, the name was given by Arabic merchants to the island of Madagascar but was later applied to the islands of which Comoros consists today as well.
14. Homosexuality is illegal in Comoros.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Comoros and can carry a jail sentence of up to 5 years as well as a fine of up to 1,000,000 Comoran francs (3,333 USD). However, the law is not commonly enforced.
15. Comorians may spend their entire life’s earnings on their weddings.
Comorians know two kinds of weddings: the Petit Mariage (small wedding) and the Grand Mariage (grand wedding). While the first is a regular Muslim wedding, the latter is nothing short of a spectacle spanning a length of up to 2 weeks. Such weddings can easily cost upwards of 40,000 USD, yet the average yearly income in Comoros is merely 1,200 USD.
16. There are no UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Comoros.
Until today, Comoros does not have any UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, it has 4 on the tentative list. Those are the Marine Ecosystems of the Comoros Archipelago, the Terrestrial ecosystems and cultural landscape of the Comoros Archipelago, the Historical Sultanates of Comoros, and Cultural Landscape of the Perfume Plantations of Comoros.
17. No athlete from Comoros has ever won an Olympic medal.
Comoros has been participating in the Olympic Summer Games since 1996 but is yet to win its first medal. Comoros competes primarily in athletics and swimming but has also sent out an athlete in weightlifting.