04 March, 2011

Comoros: Perfumes, Spices in Colors

Very few people know of an island most of whose people are descended from Hadhramout. The perfume island. The island of spices. That is the Comoros. Most people, especially tourists, know of the nearby islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles; they know too, of Madagascar. Tourists would choose to go to even the remote island of Reunion, nearby. Few would opt for the islands of the moon: Comoros. The enchanting islands, due to their not having sophisticated infrastructure, are for the adventurous. Few know that, the islands of Comoros have lush, wonderful vegetation fringed with palm trees;  very friendly people; large lagoons, good diving sites and excellent beaches. Its beaches and waters, yearly, are visited by turtles and humpbacked whales. And the Island has some of the most mouth watering cuisine. Why is the Comoros called the perfume island? The Island produces and exports some of the leading ingredients for the making of perfumes: ylang-ylang, abelmosk, lemon grass, jasmine and citronella.
Anyone who has visited the islands, will have seen women wearing a 'beauty mask' - a powdery concoction on their faces; they do so to protect their faces from the sun. If you love perfumes, then you would love the essence of ylang-ylang, an oil widely used in perfumes like the one and only: Channel No.5. The Comoros is the leading producer and exporter of ylang-ylang. If you are a connoisseur of food or of culinary matters, then you will certainly appreciate vanilla, which the Comoros too, is a leading producer and exporter of; and the Island too, produces: cloves, pepper and nutmeg, which are important ingredients in Comoran food; and Arabic and Indian cuisine.

Due to it being visited or colonized by Arabs, Indians and Europeans - the Comoros has had a variety of influences. Arabs - the Hadharem in particular, Indians, Europeans - especially the French and the Portuguese, and a mixture of various African tribes - all have played a part in giving the Comoros its unique culture; and due to all these different and varying influences - the Comoros is a culinary paradise. A typical Comoros meal would contain rice and meat, seasoned with one of the many locally produced ingredients like vanilla, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. For sea food, there is the very famous “Langouste a la vanille”: a very rich dish made with lobster boiled in vanilla sauce. Try chapattis with stewed curry of lentil or pickles, and you will want more. During ceremonies, occasions or festivals, excellent soup and salads are served; with dishes of rice and meat or fish or poultry, with spicy, salted sauces. If there are paradises on Earth, then one is: the Comoros.

Related article: The 'thing' with airplane crashes 

More on the Comoros: Les Comores, Comoros-Islands, Lonely Planet, Infoplease, BBC