Location: archipelago at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel,
between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique
Capital: Moroni
Area: 2,170 sq km
Coastline: 340 km
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Le Karthala 2,360 m
Administrative Divisions: 3 islands ; and 4 municipalities;
Grande Comore (Ngazidja), Anjouan (Nzwani), Moeli (Mwali);
and Moroni, Moutsamoudou Domoni, Fomboni
Official languages: Shikomor, Arabic, French
Religion: Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 2%
Population: 651,901
Ethnic Groups: Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalav
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.8%
                         15-64 years: 54.2%
                         65 years and over: 3%
Life expectancy: 62.33 years
Literacy: total population: 56.5%
male: 63.6%
female: 49.3% (2003)
Internet domain: km
Currency: Comorian Franc


Location, terrain, climate

The name "Comoros" is derived from the Arabic kamar or kumr, meaning "moon”. In the nineteenth century, Comoros was absorbed into the French overseas empire, but it unilaterally proclaimed independence from France on July 6, 1975.


The Comoros archipelago consists of four main islands aligned along a northwest-southeast axis at the north end of the Mozambique Channel, between Mozambique in eastern Africa and the island of Madagascar. The islands are Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), Nzwani(Anjouan), and Mahoré (Mayotte). The islands are far apart, Ngazidia is some 200 kilometers from Mahoré, forty kilometers from Mwali, and eighty kilometers from Nzwani, and lack good natural harbors The islands have a total land area of 2,236 square kilometers (including Mahoré), and claim territorial waters of 320 kilometers.

Ngazidja is the largest island, sixty-seven kilometers long and twenty-seven kilometers wide, with a total area of 1,146 square kilometers. It is the most recently formed of the four islands in the archipelago, and is of volcanic origin. There are no coral reefs along the coast. One of the largest remnants of Comoros' once-extensive rain forests is on the slopes of Mount Karthala, which is an active volcano. The national capital has been at Moroni since 1962.

Nzwani, triangular shaped and forty kilometers from apex to base, has an area of 424 square kilometers. Three mountain chains--Sima, Nioumakele, and Jimilime--emanate from a central peak, Mtingui (1,575 meters), giving the island its distinctive shape. A coral reef lies close to shore. The island's capital of Mutsamudu is also its main port.

Mwali is the smallest of the four islands, only thirty kilometers long and twelve kilometers wide, with an area of 290 square kilometers. It has a central mountain chain reaching 860 meters at its highest. Like Ngazidia, it retains stands of rain forest. Mwali's capital is Fomboni.

Mahoré, geologically the oldest of the four islands, is thirty-nine kilometers long and twenty-two kilometers wide, totaling 375 square kilometers, and its highest points are between 500 and 600 meters above sea level. A well-developed coral reef encircles much of the island.

There is an airport with a paved runway on each of the islands


The climate is marine tropical, with two seasons: the wet season, hot and humid from October to April, and a cooler, drier season the rest of the year. Cyclones occur during the wet season, and devastate houses, farms, and harbors. Average monthly temperatures range from 23° C to 28° C along the coasts. Despite heavy rainfall for much of the year, water is a scarce commodity in many parts of Comoros.

The Comoros islands are volcanic in origin, making the soil hard and porous. Despite heavy rains, there is a shortage of water on the islands as the mountainous landscapes retain water poorly and the rock is too hard to drill for water wells. There are streams and other natural sources of water on Mwali and Mahoré.

A coastal zone of mangroves is followed inland by coconut palms, mangoes, and bananas up to about 1,300 feet (400 metres). At higher elevations are forest zone and on the highest peaks broom, heather, and lichens.


 Mahogany trees and orchids are limited to the slopes of the mountains. Fragrant plants such as frangipani (Plumeria), jasmine, and lemongrass lend a delightful fragrance to the islands. Due to the cutting of trees for domestic firewood use, less than one-sixth of the land remains covered with forest.

Several mammal species are unique to the islands. The macao, a lemur found only on Mahoré, is protected by local tradition. Livingstone's fruit bat, discovered by explorer David Livingstone in 1863, is dwindling in number and present entirely on Nzwani. This is the world's largest bat; it is jet-black and has a wingspan of nearly two meters. Humboldt's flycatcher, guinea fowl and egrets are the best known of the native birds. The islands are also home to civets, small lizards, and giant land crabs. Turtles abound along the coasts and are exported.


The Comorian waters are one of the habitats of the coelacanth, a rare fish once thought to be extinct 70 million years ago, the fossil remains of which date to about -400 million years. The expanding human population has put a number of wildlife species under threat of extinction. A live specimen was caught in 1938 off southern Africa, another identified off Comoros in 1952.


Comorian governments have taken steps not only to preserve the rare fauna, but also to counteract degradation of the environment, especially on densely populated Nzwani.


Efforts are being made to replace the loss of the forest cover caused by ylang-ylang distillation for perfume, and to improve water supply on the islands.

The ethnic make up of the islands are: the Arabs, descendants of Shirazi settlers, who arrived in significant numbers in the fifteenth century; the Cafres, an African group that settled on the islands before the coming of the Shirazi; a second African group, the Makoa, descendants of slaves brought by the Arabs from the East African coast; and three groups of Malayo-Indonesian peoples. Intermarriage is common. Creoles, descendants of French settlers who intermarried with the indigenous peoples, though numbering no more than 100 are an influential group on Mahoré. The principal Comorian dialect is Shikomoro, a Bantu language related to Swahili and written in Arabic script. Classical Arabic is significant for religious reasons, and French is the language of administration.

The legal system is a combination of French and Islamic law. Most Comorians are Sunni Muslims, and Islam is the state religion.

A Comorian tradition is the grand marriage, a lavish wedding ceremony. Expensive gifts are exchanged between the couple's families and feasts are provided for an entire village. The ritual is still used as a means of distinguishing Comorian society's future leaders. Few candidates win election to the National Assembly without a grand mariage in their pasts. Critics say this practice excludes people of modest resources from participating in the islands' political life.

Those who can afford the pilgrimage to
Mecca are also accorded prestige. The imams who lead prayers in mosques form a distinct elite group.

Economy, Natural Resources
Comoros is the world's largest producer of ylang-ylang used in perfume and the world's second largest producer of vanilla; and a major producer of cloves. Food crops are coconut, banana and cassava. Livestock raising limited; fishing is being expanded.


France is the country's main trading partner for both exports and imports. Imports include rice, petroleum, meat, iron and steel, and cement.


Efforts are underway to take advantage of the islands natural beauty and rich biodiversity to develop ecotourism and other services, such as the project at Mohéli Marine Park.

Education and cultural life
Comorian law requires all children to complete eight years of schooling between the ages of seven and fifteen. Practically all children attend Quranic school for two or three years, starting around age five. The system provides six years of primary education for students ages six to twelve, followed by seven years of secondary school Practically all children attend Quranic school for two or three years, starting around age five learning basics of the Islamic faith and some classical Arabic.


Post-secondary education is in the form of teacher training, agricultural education training, health sciences, and business. There is no university on the islands, leading some to study abroad.


The school system has been chronically underfunded, which has led to student protests. The school system was established under the French and remains largely as they unchanged.


Cultural life
Comorian culture reflects the various ethnic influences; the islands' towns blend the architectural styles of mainland Africa, France, and the Middle East. Comorian cuisine draws on many traditions. Traditional Comorian women wear colorful sari-like dresses called shiromani and apply a paste of ground sandalwood and coral called msinzano to their faces.


Islam is the basis for religious observance during the year, and provides the framework for daily life. Social organization is generational, with religious and ritual duties falling mostly to elders, who also enjoy political dominance.

Traditional arts include basketry, wood carving of doors and furniture, embroidery on clothing and hats, and jewelry making in gold and silver filigree.

Music is a widely shared form of cultural expression, and public squares and other gathering places showcase local groups and artists. Comorian popular music blends Arabic, African, Indian, and Western influences. Common instruments include accordions, guitars, gongs, drums, and rattles. Many successful musicians have relocated to France, and several have found a large following among European audiences.

Internationally known Comorian writers including Salim Hatubou, Soilih Mohamed Soilih, and Aboubacar Said Salim.

Little is known of the first inhabitants of the archipelago. Given the ethnic make up of the people of Comoros, it is clear that a succession of diverse groups from the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Indonesia, and Madagascar either came through or lived here.

In the 15th and 16th centuries Shirazi Arabs arrived on the islands bringing the religion of Islam to the Comoros. Arab-style sultanates developed in
Nzwani as early as the sixteenth century with different areas of the island first ruled by chiefs known as Fani.

The Portuguese arrived in 1505. Dutch sixteenth-century accounts describe the Comoros sultanates as prosperous trade centers with the African coast and Madagascar.

France established colonial rule from 1843 -1912 over
Ngazidja/Grande Comore, Nzwani /Anjouan,  Mahoré/Mayotte, and Mwali/Mohéli, and placed the islands under the administration of the governor general of Madagascar. Later, French settlers, French-owned companies, and wealthy Arab merchants established a plantation-based economy that uses about one-third of the land for export crops.

In 1947 Comoros become an overseas territory of France and was given representation in the French parliament. In 1961 it was granted autonomy from France.

In 1973 France and Comoros agreed for Comoros to become independent in 1978.

In 1974 the islands of Ngazidja, Mwali and Nzwani voted for independence, but Mahoré/Mayotte voted to stay with France. The reasons behind Mahoré's 65 percent vote against independence were that the people of Mahoré considered themselves culturally, religiously, and linguistically distinct from those of the other three islands. Given Mahoré's smaller population, greater natural resources, and higher standard of living, the Mahorais thought that their island would be economically viable within a French union.

Modern History and Constitution
The first president of the independent country, Ahmed Abdallah, was from
Nzwani and his shrine is in his hometown of Domoni. Other presidents have also been from the island. One month after coming to power, Abdallah was deposed in a coup organized by French mercenary, Colonel Bob Denard. Prince Said Mohammed Jaffar was made president

In 1976 Jaffar was replaced by Ali Soilih, who tried to turn the country into a secular, socialist republic. Ali Soilih’s rule from 1976 -1978 was marked by continued hostility between France and Comoros. The main issues were the status of
Mahoré/Mayotte and a program designed to release Comorian life from French influence. Soilih emphasized the role of young people in the revolution, lowering the voting age to fourteen. He mobilized youth into a special revolutionary militia (the Moissy), which particularly in the villages, launched violent attacks on conservative elders.

Though a self- described devout Muslim, Soilih advocated a secular state and limitations on the privileges of the Muslim jurists who interpret Islamic law. These reforms were perceived as attacks on Comorian traditions.


Combined with an economic crisis, support for his government eroded and several attempts were made on his life. Only 55 percent of the voters supported a new constitution proposed by his government. Most Comorians supported the coup that deposed Soilih. He was killed under mysterious circumstances on May 29, 1978.

Abdallah came to power again. In 1986 his government organized a seminar, "Women, Family, and Development”. The conference organizers stressed the role of women in agriculture and family life. In 1989 he was assassinated by presidential guard under command of Denard. France intervened and sent Denard off the island.

In 1990 Said Mohamed Djohar was elected president. Five years later, Denard returned and attempted to remove Djohar in a coup. French troops intervene, Denard surrendered.

The Union of Comoros joined the Arab League in1993

In 1996 Mohamed Abdulkarim Taki was elected president. He drafted a constitution which extended the authority of the president and established Islam as the basis of law. He died suddenly in 1998, and was replaced by Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde

Several coups have taken place since then; in 1999 Colonel Azali Assoumani seized power in a bloodless coup, overthrowing interim President Tadijiddine Ben Said Massounde. In May 1999, Azali decreed a constitution that gave him both executive and legislative powers. When he took power he had pledged to step down in 2000 and relinquish control to a democratically elected president. But in 2001, Azali resigned from the military and ran as a civilian candidate for the national presidency. He was elected in 2002 in flawed but fair elections.

On May 26, 2006, following a two-stage electoral process that was generally free and fair, Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi was installed as the new President of the Union of the Comoros. Sambi's inaugural address included a promise to bring justice and development to the Comoros

Constitution of Comoros was approved in referendum on June 7, 1992. It replaced the constitution of 1978, as amended in 1982 and 1985. Among the general principles enumerated in the preamble are the recognition of Islam as the state religion and respect for human rights as set forth in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All citizens are declared equal before the law. The 2001 constitution allows political parties to operate freely



Nature reserves: Mohéli Marine Park


Comoros’ Constitution,  Universities, Tourism