The Union of Comoros is an African Island nation in the Indian Ocean. The island is located north of Mozambique Channel and borders Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Seychelles. The country sits on an area of 1660 square kilometers, and is the third smallest country in Africa. Comoros is one of the least populous countries with a population of only 790,000 people, but it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Half the population is below the age of 15 years while 34% of the population lives in urban areas. There are three major ethnic groups in the country with several ethnic minorities. The largest of these ethnic groups are looked at below.
African Arabs, commonly known as Afro-Arabs, are a group of people or individuals who trace their ancestry to both African and Arabic origins. Most of the African Arabs are along the Swahili coastlines in Africa Great Lakes region. Some of these ethnic groups are also in other parts of the world, especially in the Arab world. African Arab is the dominant ethnic group in Comoros accounting for 86% of the total population. The island was initially colonized by Africans, however, in the 15th Century the Arabs arrived on the island and thus established their chiefdoms, which were headed by Sultans. The Arabs flourished in the slave trade and at the same time influenced Africans culturally through Islam. The Arab influence on Africans saw the emergence of an Afro-Arab group that has now grown into the largest ethnic group in the country. The Swahili culture characterizes the ethnic group. Arabic heavily influences the language. Ritual music such as Stambali and Gnawa are common ritual music among this community.
The Malagasy are the major ethnic group in Madagascar. However, Comoros also have a significant number of people belonging to this ethnic group. Malagasy are divided into two groups, the Highlanders and the coastal dwellers. The coastal dwellers of Malagasy are the majority in Comoros. The first group of Malagasy, the Austronesian settlers, arrived from Borneo and settled in the Central Highland region where they practiced rice farming. With their canoes, they moved and established kingdoms on the unpopulated coastlines, including Comoros. The main economic activities of the Malagasy include hunting, fishing, and agriculture. They also value clothing and hair styling. The majority of Malagasy practice Christianity as the dominant religion.
Ismaili Indian is a sub-branch of Shia Muslims who received the name Ismaili from their following of the teachings of Imam Ismaili ibn Jafar. They believe in the oneness of God and Muhammad as the prophet of God. The group is mainly among the Indian community in Comoros and other parts of the world including Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, and East Africa. Ismaili Indians believes in reincarnation of their members within their community. They also believe that numbers have religious meaning especially the number seven.
Other Ethnic Minorities in Comoros
Some of the smaller ethnic minorities in the country of Comoros include the Chinese, French, Dutch, British, and Portuguese. These minority groups arrived in the country during the colonization of Africa in search of slaves. Most of these minority groups have their ancestry in the countries of origin. The majority of expatriates working in Comoros are from the ethnic minority.