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.
According to Abbreviationfinder, 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).
- Countryaah: 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 negotiations.
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).
According to Countryaah, 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.