Referred to by the French as Anjouan and by early English visitors as Johanna, Nzwani has been called the "pearl" of the Indian Ocean. With forested hillsides and rivers tumbling to the sea it is a beautiful island. It is essentially a triangle with approximately 50 kilometers on each side and a total area of 424 square kilometers (164 square miles).
With a population of more than 320,000 people it is the most densely populated island in the Comoro archipelago (over 1951 persons per square mile). Most live in small communities found throughout the island. One major town is the capital and the island's major seaport, Mutsamudu, on the western side of the island. Another is Domoni, an ancient capital and seaport on the eastern shore. You can read a detailed description of traditional life on the island in the book, Marriage in Domoni. Other communities on Nzwani of historical interest are Pomoni, Sima, and Ouani.
Its volcanic peak, Mount Ntingi, 1,575 meters high. It is covered with vegetation, including large ferns, tropical mahoganies, and wild orchids, in contrast with the three points of the triangle, which are less luxuriant due to centuries of cultivation. Agricultural products include essential oils such as ylang-ylang, jasmine, cassis, basilic, palmarosa, and orange flower. Vanilla, cloves, and copra are also exported while a large variety of fruits, root crops, legumes, spices, herbs, and grains are grown for domestic use.
The island was populated as early as the 7th century but little is known about the people until the 16th century when merchants on the island were engaged in the vast Indian Ocean maritime trade and Arabic-style sultanates developed. In 1886, the island became a French protectorate and was formally annexed by France to its possessions in 1909.
In 1975, Anjouan was one of the three islands to declare its independence from France and make up the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoro Islands. The first president of the independent country, Ahmed Abdallah, was from Anjouan and his shrine is in his hometown of Domoni, the ancient walled community on the east coast of the island. Other presidents have also been from the island. A group of secessionists on the island declared, in 1997, the Island's independence from the Comoro Republic and hoped to reattach the island to France, like Mayotte. This attempt failed, ending with the ousting of a renegade president in 2008 by a combined effort of the Federal Comorian and Organization of African Unity military force. A new Federal Government of the three independent islands was soon formed and the country was renamed, the Union of the Comoro Islands.
Click here for current weather conditions at Ouani, on the northwest coast of Anjouan, where the airport is located.