Malaria, including cerebral malaria, is prevalent in the Comoros. Sleep under a permethrin-treated mosquito net and take an anti-malarial. Grand Comore and Anjouan have the best medical infrastructure and you can be tested for malaria in most major towns. If you get a fever, it is wise to get tested, especially if the fever does not respond to paracetemol or does not go away. Moheli has a hospital in Fomboni and one that recently re-opened in Nioumachoua but may occasionally be accessible.
Healthy food is not difficult to find. Eat many fruits and vegetables as well as rice. During some time of the year vegetables might be only available in small quantities in Moheli. A healthy and delicious local dish is madaba pounded and boiled manioc leaves. But madaba takes hours to prepare, so you may not find it in restaurants. If you are fortunate enough to stay or eat with a local family, you might get to try madaba. Vegetarians should be aware that on Grand Comore locals put fish in the madaba, while on Moheli they do not. Women may experience cessation or alteration of their menstrual cycle due to poor nutrition if they stay in the Comoros for several months or longer.
The official languages are French and Arabic. Most Comorians speak their own language known as Shikomor Comorian, which is a set of Swahili dialects, as a first language and French as a second. Some can also speak Arabic.
Each island has its own dialect. The greetings below are not necessarily direct translations.
Greetings nearly always follow this pattern:
Although the Comoros are a rather liberal Muslim country, it is disrespectful for women to expose their shoulders, much of their chest, knees, and especially stomach and lower back. Wear shirts or shawls that cover these areas. Locals will not expect foreign, non-Muslim women to cover their heads. When swimming, local women are fully dressed. Foreigners are not expected to do this, but shorts and a swimming shirt is more respectful than a bikini or topless swimming. Men should wear shorts below the knee, though this is less offensive than a woman doing so. Public affection between men and women is not acceptable, though one may rarely see a Comorian man and woman holding hands briefly in the nightclubs some locals seem to ignore Muslim convention.
Non-Muslim religious proselytizing is illegal, as is giving Bibles to locals. Locals are very tolerant and friendly towards non-Muslims, but avoid appearing as if you are trying to convert them.
Drinking alcohol in public is disrespectful, though it occurs in nightclubs. Restaurants generally do not serve alcohol unless they cater to foreigners.
To greet an elder, you say "kwesi". The elder says something like "mbona, mkana baraka" to which you respond "salaama".
It is a big mistake to hand out candy to children on the street. Since locals are unused to tourists, this rarely occurs and they are usually just happy to talk with you, children included. Once tourists begin handing out gifts and money, locals will see Westerners as rich and free with money, destroying many opportunities for a human connection with them. Children will harass tourists for candy and money they occasionally do now. Tourists who do this are showing themselves to be disrespectful of locals by assuming that money/candy is what they want from tourists and by putting that in between them rather than making an effort to get to know locals and ignorant of the consequences of their actions.
Since, allegedly, it was discovered that a Western man, resident of Grand Comore for 14 years, had been making pornographic videos and photographs, as well as violating children on the islands, the residents are quite averse to being filmed or photographed. Individual reactions may vary upon being photographed, but visitors must be advised that taking unauthorised photographs of the locals will, at best, offend an individual and, at worst, cause irrational and potentially violent reactions in the subject.
Jeje? how are you?
Gushindu? your health is good?
Kumnono? you feel good?
Habari you are well?
Salaama at peace
Note that any series of words with habari in it requires a response of salaama. Shikomor has various extensions of the habari greeting to indicate time of day, such as habarizaho or habarizasobwuhi.
Other necessary words:
Marahaba thank you
Marahaba menji thank you very much
Swamahani Sorry/pardon me
Pvapvo there; used to tell a taxi driver where you want them to stop
Pvano here; same as above, but the driver will likely slam on the brakes