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Comoros is an independent state comprising a group of islands at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and the southeast African mainland, about 180 miles (290 km) off the eastern coast of Africa. Officially called the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros, the republic includes three islands, Njazidja (Grande Comore, home to the capital Moroni), Mwali (Mohli), and Nzwani (Anjouan). Since the republic's independence in 1975, the fourth island in the Comoros Islands archipelago, Mayotte (Mahore), has chosen to remain a dependency of France. The islands are of volcanic origin and are mountainous featuring ancient mosques, volcanic lakes, rainforests, extraordinary flora and fauna and superb white beaches. They have a tropical climate with a rainy season lasting from November to April and a cooler dry season prevailing the rest of the year. With a rich and varied vegetation, they are the major producer of the world's perfume essences, processed from the blossoms of ylang-ylang, jasmine and orange, hence the name "Les Iles Parfumees". The Comoros are also famous for the prehistoric deep sea fish known as the coelacanthe, thought to be long extinct, but discovered earlier this century in these waters.
The islands have an ethnically diverse population, including people of Arab, black African, and Malagasy descent. The largest group, the Antalaotra, is of mixed origin. French and Arabic are the official languages; the national vernacular is Comorian, or Shaafi Islam, a blend of Swahili and Arabic. Islam is the most important religion on all the islands in the archipelago except Mayotte, where Christianity predominates.
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