Customs and traditions
The everyday life of most Comoros is
characterized by Islam and the Muslim holidays. Islamic
fundamentalism is not common, but it gives high status
in society to have made a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Comoros are described as a relatively open and
tolerant society, and even people who meet temporarily
are happy to discuss politics and social issues.
However, distrust of politicians is usually great after
decades of political chaos (see Modern History).
Overview of the capital city of Comoros, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Life often passes at a fairly calm pace. Scheduled
meetings do not always happen at the time stated. The
greeting can be transformed into a protracted ritual
that includes a long moment of conversation about each
other's health, family, work and more, before the
conversation gets into any essentials, such as business
There are hardly any special rules for dress in
official contexts, except that everyone is expected to
be reasonably neat. Women should wear long sleeves and
not wear short skirts. Women can also expect not to be
treated as respectfully as men.
In villages and small towns, public life revolves
around the square (bangwe), where the men can
sit for hours under shady trees and discuss, drink
strong coffee and play board games. Otherwise, the
family home and the mosque are the fixed points of
existence. It is common for homes to be adorned in
bright colors and a photo of the Great Mosque in Mecca
often occupies the finest place. Since the family should
be able to pray in the dwelling, the shoes are always
left outside, as in the mosques, so as not to dirty the
floor, which is the place of prayer.
The Comoros are a distinct class community, where a
pilgrimage to Mecca or a grand wedding (grand
mariage) within the family gives the highest status
to the individual. A big wedding is often preceded by
many years of savings and can cost a family upwards of a
few hundred thousand kronor. During the big wedding,
precious gifts are exchanged between the bride and
groom's families, and the whole village or neighborhood
is offered large-scale. The big weddings are considered
to keep crafts such as gold and silver forging alive, as
well as old singing and dance traditions, but they can
also have serious financial consequences for the
families and efforts have been made to ban these events.
However, the tradition is deeply rooted and it is
difficult to get a higher position in society without
having married in a big style. This means that people
who are disadvantaged financially are more or less
excluded from senior political positions.
Comorian food bears traces of the many cultures that
made their mark in the country - African, Asian and
European. Rice seasoned with carnations, saffron,
cinnamon or pomegranate juice belongs to the staple
food. Seafood is sometimes served with custard and
curries are common. Beans, root vegetables and coconut
are also included in many dishes. In the home, the food
is cooked outside in the yard. Before the Comoros start
eating, it is customary to bless the food by saying
bismillah (thank God).
The most important weekends are the major Islamic
holidays, but the birthday of Prophet Muhammad is
celebrated, as are some of the local Muslim saints'
birthdays. Christmas Day is also a public holiday. Among
the secular (non-religious) weekends may be mentioned
Labor Day, May 1, Independence Day, July 6, and some
former President's death days.
Most of the Comorian road network is in poor
condition. Railways are completely missing. Public taxi
is the most common way to get around the islands.
The Comoros have no port that can receive ocean-going
vessels, but transhipments must be done to smaller
vessels in South Africa, Mauritius or Madagascar. The
largest port is Mutsamudu on the island of Anjouan.
There are boat connections between the islands as well
as to and from Madagascar and the east coast of Africa.
Near the capital Moroni is an international airport
that has recently been modernized and expanded with
Chinese help. There are also smaller airports on the
other islands. The country's national airline Air
Comores discontinued its operations in 1995 after a
failed attempt at privatization. Charter companies have
taken over the profitable portions of the traffic that
Air Comores previously had.