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Located off the east coast of Africa, between Mozambique and Madagascar, Anjouan is one of the three main islands that make up the country of Comoros (the others are Grande Comoros and Moheli). A former French colony, Comoros is perfect for tourism – with picture-postcard beaches, dramatic volcanic peaks and an abundant marine park. But in the three decades following the country’s 1975 split from France, it suffered through some 20 coups and secession attempts, rendering it inhospitable and virtually unknown to travellers.

A friend on our around-the-world sailing voyage had suggested we visit after reading a few scant details about the archipelago’s rich agriculture, historical cities and unique solution to its political strife (the presidency now rotates through the three islands). So we sailed there, almost on a whim, making landfall in a country we’d only just heard of.

Following Maketse, we continued down a winding trail into a fragrant forest. There, women draped in bright fabrics, their faces painted with sandalwood paste to protect them from the sun, were picking delicate yellow ylang-ylang flowers – the base of Chanel No 5, the perfume that Marilyn Monroe made famous. Holding a few blossoms in my hands, I inhaled deeply. The scent – jasmine, pear and maybe carnation and clove – evoked something on the edge of my memory. Maybe it was a party or a wedding from my childhood, my mother and aunt in bright satin dresses with their hair piled high and wearing that perfume.