Comoros was frequented by travelers from Africa, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Arabia before the first Europeans encountered the islands. Arabic influence has been the strongest.
France colonized Mayotte in 1843 and by 1904 had annexed the remainder of the archipelago. In a 1974 referendum, 95% of the population voted for independence. The exception was Mayotte, which, with its Christian majority, voted against joining the other mainly Islamic islands in independence. Today it remains a French overseas territory.
Officially the Union of Comoros, Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. It is located off eastern Africa’s coast. It sits on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique. The capital is Moroni. Its surface area is 1,862 sq. km. Comoros is Africa’s third smallest country in terms of land area. Its population is 798,000 making it the 6th smallest by population. Its population density is one of the highest in Africa. The islands’ culture and history are diverse. The Union of Comoros has three official languages, Comorian, Arabic, and French.
Comoros’s first human inhabitants were Austronesian and African settlers, settling no later than the 6th century AD. This is the date of the first archeological site found on the islands. Diverse groups from the Persian Gulf, Africa’s coast, Madagascar, and the Malay Archipelago settled the islands. Around the first millennium, Swahili settlers reached the islands as part of the Bantu expansion.
There are several phases of development. The first is the Dembeni phase. In this phase, Swahili influence was persistent and each island supported a single village. Later in the 1000s to the 1400s, trade with Middle Eastern merchants and Madagascar’s inhabitants grew. Additional smaller villages started and others expanded. Arab settlement are said to have begun even before their known arrival in the area and historians of Swahili background trace their history back to Arab ancestors from Yemen and Saba’ in Eden, an ancient kingdom. The truth of this is not settled.
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