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Mayotte (mĪŏtˈ) [key], island (2005 est. pop. 194,000), 144 sq mi (374 sq km), French departmental collectivity, Indian Ocean, in the Comoro chain. Mamoudzou is the capital and largest city. The land is gently rolling, with some mountains of ancient volcanic origin and deep ravines. The climate is tropical, with a hot and humid rainy season and a cooler dry season. Nearly all Muslim, the population is of mixed Arab, African, and Malagasy origin. French is the official language, but Mahorian, a Swahili dialect, is widely spoken. The economy is largely agricultural and includes livestock raising and fishing. Mayotte exports perfume oils, vanilla, copra, coconuts, coffee, and cinnamon. Much of its food, as well as machinery, equipment, metals, and chemicals is imported, mainly from France. Part of the Comoro Islands, it became a French possession in 1843. When the Comoros became an independent republic in 1975, Mayotte decided to remain French and the following year it voted to become a territorial collectivity. In 2000 voters approved increased autonomy for Mayotte, which subsequently became a departmental collectivity, but in a 2009 referendum voters approved becoming an overseas department of France, effective in 2011. Mayotte is still claimed by the Comoros.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on Mayotte from Infoplease:

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Comoro Islands Political Geography

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