Comoros floats off the east coast of Southern Africa, squeezed between Mozambique and Madagascar. It’s actually made up of four main islands – Grande Comore, Moheli, Anjouan and Mayotte – along with a handful of inhabited smaller islands. The archipelago is Africa’s third-smallest country by area and the fourth-smallest by population. But while it might be diminutive in size, it still has plenty to say for itself. From one of the world’s most active volcanoes to most of the world’s ylang-ylang, here are a few interesting facts about Comoros that should help you fill in the gaps.
Interesting facts about Comoros
1. Comoros is the world’s largest producer of ylang-ylang
Comoros is nicknamed the “Perfume Isles” due to the abundance of ylang-ylang produced in the country. Around 80% of the world’s ylang-ylang flowers can be found in Comoros. The plant is a key ingredient in most perfumes; Coco Chanel famously developed Chanel No.5 using around 10% ylang-ylang and it’s been a firm favourite with consumers ever since.
Sadly, due to deforestation, the industry is under threat today.
2. Comoros is one of the least-visited countries in the world
According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Comoros is one of the world’s least popular destinations among tourists with just 28,000 tourists per year.
The country also has one of the smallest populations in the world at 850,000. However, it’s also one of the most densely populated places in the world, since the country only stretches across 719 sq mi (1,861 km²).
3. Comoros is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world
Most other island nations are relatively flat, but Comoros is a volcanic island chain. Mount Karthala, its highest peak, soars 2,361 m (7,746 ft) high. It most recently erupted in 2007, making it one of the world’s most active volcanoes. In fact, eruptions occur around every 11 years, though rarely causing significant damage.
4. The closest neighbouring country to Comoros is… France
Comoros share maritime borders with Madagascar, Tanzania and Mozambique but when it comes to landmass, France is (technically) its closest neighbour. Mayotte is an overseas department, region and single territorial collectivity of France. Stretching across 144 sq mi (374 km²) with a population of 299,348 people, the island enjoys the same status as the departments of Metropolitan France. It is the outermost region of the EU and part of the Eurozone too.
5. Comoros averages one coup every two years
Since Comoros gained independence in 1974, there have been over 20 coups d’etat or attempted coups. That’s roughly one every two years. Currently, the former coup leader Azali Assoumani is president. The presidency of the Union rotates between three islands.
6. There’s big money in weddings in Comoros
There are two kinds of wedding in Comoros: the Petit Marriage (small wedding) and the Grand Marriage (grand wedding). The Petit Marriage is a typical Muslim wedding. Then, around 10-20 years later, the couple will celebrate the Grand Marriage. The event typically takes place between July and September and lasts for up to a couple of weeks. Traditionally, the wedding should cost over $1,000 but many weddings cost up to $20,000.
According to tradition, the bride prepares the groom’s attire for the grand marriage but if he has multiple wives, each of them must prepare an outfit. Djaliko Day marks the end of the first week of celebrations when the groom and bride visit each other’s families and donate money to local projects. After the wedding, the groom traditionally moves to the bride’s house.
7. Comoros is a haven for wildlife-watchers
Comoros might be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to wildlife. It’s home to over 500 endemic plant species, 21 endemic species of bird and nine endemic reptile species. Anjoyan and Mohéli are the only place in the world where you can see endangered Livingstone Fruit Bats too. These majestic creatures have a wingspan stretching 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) and live up in the mountains. Mohéli is also an important turtle nesting site.
Mohéli National Park opened in 2001 and, until recently, it was the archipelago’s only protected parklands. The area encompasses several marine reserves, which village communities co-manage. This year, the island nation plans to dramatically expand its protected area network by installing new parklands on Ngazidja (or Grande Comore), Ndzuani (or Anjouan) and another parkland on Mohéli.