The Comorian people’s customs, traditional clothes, cuisine and celebrations demonstrate a blend of diverse cultures imported centuries ago by Arabs, Portuguese and French traders.
Since it is historically linked to both East Africa and France (and now has a strong Malagasy influence) Zanzibar’s taarab music, remains the most influential genre on the islands, and a Comorian version called twarab is popular. Comorian instruments include the ‘ud and violin, the most frequent accompaniment for twarab, as well as gabusi (a type of lute) and ndzendze (a box zither). Sega music from nearby Mauritius and Réunion is also popular.
Despite the French influence on the Comoros, the local people of the Islands still wear their traditional clothes (especially the elderly). The women’s clothes consist of Shiromeni, lively colored long dressed and skirts.
Another traditional tradionatl way of dressing up for Comorian women is the use of sandalwood and coral paste as a beauty mask on their faces. The men’s traditional clothes are a colorful long skirt, a long white shirt and Koffia, a considerably expensive skull cap that has a high value among the people of the Comoros.
Rice is the staple of the daily diet, along with manioc and other root vegetables, plantains, fresh and dried fish, and milk from grated coconuts. Food taboos provide a way to establish connections and acknowledge identity.
Comorian is a Bantu language that looks like, but is not related to, Swahili; each island has its own way of speaking it. The language contains many words of Arabic and French origin. All Comorians receive a Koranic education and learn to write their language in Arabic characters. Formal education is given in French.
Oral literature includes stories about the creation of villages, war epics, philosophical poetry, tales, riddles, and proverbs. Novels and poetry in French are available.
Comorians live in villages and cities, some of which are fortified. Mosques, palaces, public squares, stone and coral archways called the doors of peace, and tombs decorated with domes and pillars are examples of stone-built monuments. Sculpted wood and coral decorate niches, ceilings, and doors, featuring geometric or floral patterns and Koranic calligraphy.
Houses are made of dark basalt plastered with coral lime, cob (mud mixed with straw from rice plants), and braided coconut fronds. Cement is slowly replacing stone, while sheet metal replaces braided coconut fronds.
A typical house has two rooms, one private and one for to receiving visitors, and sometimes a living room. The courtyard is used for domestic activities. Boys sleep in bachelor quarters. Women dominate in houses, indoor courtyards, and alleys. Men’s territory includes mosques and public squares.
A wide variety of sports are popular in Comoros, including football (soccer), basketball, athletics (track and field), swimming, tennis, and cycling, most of which were introduced during the period of French colonialism.
The national holiday, commemorating independence, is celebrated on 6 July.
Agriculture remains the major industry in Comoros, producing maize (corn), cassava, rice, bananas, and vegetables. Protein comes from fish and poultry. Attracted by fertile soils and cheap labor, plantation companies acquired land in the islands in the 19th century, and by the beginning of the 20th century they owned most of the cultivable land.
During the 20th century growing sugarcane gave way to the cultivation of scent-bearing flowers and spices, such as ylang-ylang, vanilla, and cloves, as well as copra (dried coconut meat that produces a valuable oil).
Flowers and spices remain the basic commercial crops grown in the islands, and the only significant exports. Comoros is heavily dependent on imported food; food regularly constitutes 40 percent of all imports.
There are no industries in the islands apart from some government power plants and artisan workshops that engage in small industries such as goldsmithing, boatbuilding, clothing manufacture, and scent processing. France has remained by far the most important trading partner.