Comoros is officially referred to as the Union of Comoros and it is an independent archipelago island country in the Indian Ocean situated at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. It is located off Africa’s eastern coast between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Neighboring countries to Comoros are Seychelles to the northeast and Tanzania to the northwest. The country’s capital city is Moroni, located in Grande Comore. The country’s official languages are French, Arabic, and Comorian, and Islam is the main religion.
Comoros has diverse culture from its religion, food, fashion, music and even architecture. All these aspects of culture portray a mixture of diverse cultures that were brought into the country by French, Portuguese, and Arab traders. Some of these aspects will be discussed in brief below.
Architecture in Comoros:
|Traditional dance in Comoros|
All Comorians live in cities and villages, most of which are fortified. Some of the stone-built monuments in the country include public squares, palaces, Mosques, tombs adorned with pillars and domes, and coral and stone archways referred to as the doors of peace are some of the stone-built monuments in the country. Other architectural aspects include sculpted coral and wood decorative niches used on doors and ceilings, and they feature floral or geometric patterns and Koranic calligraphy. Their houses are built from dark ballast plastered with cob, which is a mixture of mud and straws from rice plants. The houses are also built from coral lime and braided coconut leaves. Stone is slowly being replaced by cement, while braided coconut fronds are being replaced by sheet metal.
Comorian houses have two rooms. One is private and the other is for receiving and entertaining visitors, and can at times be used as the living room. The courtyard is normally used for domestic activities. Comorian women dominate more in alleys, houses and indoor courtyards while the men dominate in public squares and mosques. Comorian boys sleep in the bachelor quarters.
Religion in Comoros:
The dominant religion in the country is Islam, especially Sunni Islam of the Chafeite rite. Most of the locals have faith in the power of the djinn and other earthly spirits. Such beliefs have been derived from Madagascan, African, and Arabic traditions. The locals also have faith in the notion of cosmic balance that developed from the Arab astrology.
Islam is practiced in several ways in the country and the religious responsibilities can at times overlap. Some practices and roles are institutionalized and defined clearly, for instance, muezzin and preachers who carry out community prayers at the mosque, conducting holy prayers on Fridays and so on. Walimumasters, who are quite many in the countryside can be healers, Koranic instructors, masters of the Muslim djinn, and astrologists. It is also a common experience for the locals to communicate with the unseen.
Comorians celebrate all Sunni Islam’s religious holidays. They also celebrate the birth of the Prophet and those of the local saints. The majority of the prayer services are carried out at the Friday and neighborhood mosques, but the special devotions of the rifayya, kadiriyya, and shadhuliyya brotherhoods are conducted in the orders ‘mosques’ courtyards, referred to as zawiya. Local saints are buried in tombs in these courtyards, and the locals come here to pray.
The dead are normally buried as per the Islamic rites that exclude women. Special prayers are organized for the third, ninth, and fortieth days of mourning. When a person sees his or her dead parent in a dream, it informs him or her of the relative’s happiness, thus facilitating prayer.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship in Comoros:
Both Comorian men and women marry two to four times on average but sometimes much more frequently. A small population of the men are polygamous but they do not have more than two wives at a time. The great wedding is normally held in the village and within the community. This is to make sure that the wealth being swapped remains in the community. This has to be a woman’s first wedding even if it will be celebrated years after the religious marriage was carried out. It is the husband only who can renounce his partner, but the wife can at times provoke him to make that choice.
The domestic unit is usually dominated by the wife’s relatives. These include children from previous marriages, and other people that she is responsible for. Transfers of young ones within the family take place quite often. If the husband is from the same village, he is free to visit his mother’s and sisters’ homes. When a woman marries, she is given a piece of arable land and a house. Land that is owned jointly matrilineally, and inherited through women, can only be sold so as to run away from dishonor. Individual property is often handed down via a testament or declaration, and Islamic law is seldom used.
On Ngazidja Island, a person belongs to his or her mother’s lineage, referred to as “house” or “belly” and it has its own name. Matrilineal transmission is not that formal on the other islands. A person, however, still resides with his or her maternal family. Patrilineal transmission is of Arab origin and is present on Ndzuani Island. Three sharif lineages are also present in the islands.
Language in Comoros:
The dominant language in the country is Comorian. This is a Bantu language that is similar but not related to Swahili, and every island has its own style of speaking it. Comorian is made up of many words of French and Arabic origin. All locals go through a Koranic education where they learn how to write the language in the Arabic language. French is the language for instruction when it comes to formal education.
Fashion in Comoros:
French has had a lot of influence on Comoros, but this has not influenced how the locals dress. This is because they still dress in their traditional clothes. Women clothes are made up of Shiromeni; these are lively colored long skirts and dresses. Comorian women also use coral and sandalwood paste as a beauty mask on their faces. For the men, their traditional clothes are made up of a long white shirt, a colorful long skirt, and a Koffia, which is an expensive skull cap that is of high value to the locals.
Food in Comoros:
Rice is the staple food for Comorians day-to-day diet. This is usually accompanied by dried and fresh fish, plantains, manioc and other root vegetables, and milk from grated coconut.
|French bread for sale on the street, Moroni,Source|
Music and the Arts in Comoros:
Comoros is historically connected to France and East Africa, and it presently has a h2 Malagasy influence. This has, therefore, influenced the kind of music Comorians listen to. As of now Zanzibar’s taarab music is the most listened to genre in the country, and twarab, a Comorian version is also popular. Some of the local musical instruments are the violin and ud, mostly used as accompaniment for twarab, the ndzendze; this is a box zither, and a gabusi (a form of lute) among other instruments. Sega music from Réunion and Mauritius is also popular.
|Traditional music in Comoros|
The locals have customary celebrations referred to as ada. These are occasions for both male and female dancing, recitation of significant texts, and violin concerts.
Some of the locals also engage in graphics art where they get to make day-to-day objects such as jewelry, embroidery (openwork curtains, Islamic bonnets, ceremonial coats, etc), pottery, basketry, makeup tables in carved coral, abacus-style number games, and sculpted wood coconut graters.
Literature in Comoros:
The country’s oral literature is made up of stories about the formation of the villages, philosophical poetry, proverbs, war epics, riddles ,and tales. Poetry and novels in French are also available.
Gender roles and statuses in Comoros:
Labor is usually divided by gender. Men work to provide for the home and meet the family’s needs. Men fear ridicule and this keeps them away from housework and a teenage boy who spends the nights in his mother’s house is termed a “girl.” Women group themselves together and they use their power to influence affairs in the village via their associations. Women are also included in modern political life and one cabinet post is normally occupied by a woman. In the Islamic religious setting, women are usually restricted to operating as Koranic instructors.
As mentioned earlier on, men get to practice polygamy and also enjoy a monopoly in religious offices. Despite these factors, women are the ones who have a comfortable social status since they are the ones who own the conjugal house. On Ngazidja Island, the eldest daughter and her brother are the head of their mother’s lineage and the household. Women also possess a degree of material independence, they receive respect in the organization of traditional celebrations, and their role as mothers is always praised.
Etiquette in Comoros:
With regards to etiquette, one has to greet and respect his or her elders regardless of their social standing. A woman cannot go out if she does not have a head veil. The wife and the children eat their meals in the kitchen, while the husband eats in the living room or at the dining table, where he can invite a friend or a parent.