The Comoros (Arabic: جزر القمر), officially the Union of the Comoros, is a sovereign, archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Other countries near to the Comoros are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. The capital is Moroni on Grande Comore.
At 1,862 km2 (719 sq mi) (excluding Mayotte), the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area. The population (excluding Mayotte) is estimated at 798,000. Its name derives from the Arabic word قمر qamar ("moon"). The archipelago is notable for its diverse culture and history, as a nation formed at the crossroads of many civilizations. It is the southernmost member state of the Arab League. Though in the contested island of Mayotte the sole official language is French, the "Union of the Comoros" has three official languages: Comorian, Arabic, and French.
The country officially consists of the four major islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago: northwesternmost Grande Comore or Ngazidja, Mohéli or Mwali, Anjouan or Nzwani, and southeasternmost Mayotte or Maore, as well as many smaller islands. However, the government of the Comoros (or its predecessors, since independence) has never administered the island of Mayotte, which France administers as an overseas department. Mayotte was the only island in the archipelago that voted against independence from France in 1974; the latter has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island.
The Comoros is the only state to be a member of all of the following: African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League, and Indian Ocean Commission. The country has had a history marked by numerous coups d'état since independence in 1975. As of 2008 about half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
The Comoros is formed by Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), Nzwani (Anjouan), and Maore (Mayotte), the major islands in the Comoros Archipelago, as well as many minor islets. The islands are officially known by their Comorian language names, though international sources still use their French names (given in parentheses above).
At 2,235 km2 (863 sq mi), it is one of the smallest countries in the world. The Comoros also has claim to 320 km2 (120 sq mi) of territorial seas. The interiors of the islands vary from steep mountains to low hills. The climate is generally tropical and mild, and the two major seasons are distinguishable by their relative raininess. The temperature reaches an average of 29–30 °C (84–86 °F) in March, the hottest month in the rainy season (called kashkazi, December to April), and an average low of 19 °C (66 °F) in the cool, dry season (kusi, May to November). The islands are rarely subject to cyclones.
The Comoros also lays claim to the Glorioso Islands, comprising Grande Glorieuse, Île du Lys, Wreck Rock, South Rock, Verte Rocks (three islets), and three unnamed islets, one of France's Îles Éparses or Îles éparses de l'océan indien (Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean) possessions. The Glorioso Islands were administered by the colonial Comoros before 1975, and are therefore sometimes considered part of the Comoros Archipelago. Banc du Geyser, a former island in the Comoros Archipelago, now submerged, is geographically located in the Îles Éparses, but was annexed by Madagascar in 1976 as an unclaimed territory. The Comoros now claims it as part of its exclusive economic zone.