Surface area : 2170.0 km2
Population : 798000 inhabitants
In the markets on the three islands you will find silver jewellery, raffia hats, articles of basketwork, and household linen embroidered with colourful motifs of Madagascan inspiration. As local spices are extremely cheap here, stock up on your provisions of nutmeg, cloves and vanilla pods. Wood-carving is also a speciality of the archipelago.
The shops are usually open in the week from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, apart from on Fridays, when all the shops close at 11:00 am. During Ramadan, the opening hours are very disrupted.
Comorian cuisine is simple but very tasty, due to the addition of ingredients such as cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and particularly coconut milk, which accompanies most of the dishes. Meat and fish are generally accompanied by rice, and sometimes local vegetables, such as yam and taro. Those who like fish will love the freshly fished tuna, grouper, and octopus. Fish with coconut has, moreover, been raised to the position of a national dish. Due to the Indian influences, you will also find curry and samosas (spicy pastries stuffed with meat and vegetables).
The archipelago produces an abundance of tropical fruits : papaya, mango, lychee, and guava, which you can eat fresh or as juice. Islamic law officially forbids the consumption of alcohol, however, you will find beer and alcoholic drinks in most hotels.
As the islands mostly import goods, you will only find local produce outside the hotels, which benefit from various consumer goods.
Even if there is not much of an opportunity to observe it, you will certainly have heard of the 'Big Wedding', a tradition that continues, particularly on Grande Comore. Men from the higher classes of Comorian society often devote their lives to raising enough money to be able to celebrate this union. It represents the only way of being elected to the rank of a person of note; having social status and being able to participate in the elections. Men have generally reached forty years of age before they can organise the marriage, which is often a second union with a much younger woman. The celebrations last for several days and the husband then spends the rest of his life paying off his debts.
Due to the difficulties you may encounter in getting around between the islands, plan to find out about the timetables of the planes or boats the minute you arrive. The earlier you make your reservations, the better things will be.
If you would like to discover the islands in more detail, do not fail to call on guides. They will be able to introduce you to the leaders of the villages, and explain the history of the vanilla and ylang-ylang plantations to you, which will be one of the best moments of your trip. Always ask for permission before photographing the inhabitants.
Avoid going during the Ramadan period, as the islands life is very disrupted then.