Portugal is a European country located in the Iberian peninsula and it is incredibly rich in terms of culture and history. It also has gorgeous landscapes and counts innumerable hidden gems. Formally called the Portuguese Republic, this country counts around 10.5 million people, predominantly Catholics. Its capital city is Lisbon and its only neighbouring country is Spain. Portugal is part of the European continent, but its territory also comprises two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean: the Azores and Madeira. In this article you will find 10 interesting facts about this surprising country, that you probably didn’t know!
#1 Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe
Portugal has had the same defined borders for over 800 years, making it one of the most ancient nation-states in Europe. Lisbon is even older than Rome by several centuries. Lisbon is said to have been established around 1200 BC and is the oldest city of Western Europe, and second oldest in Europe, after Athens.
#2 Portuguese is the 6th most-spoken language in the world
Portuguese is spoken by around 230 million people worldwide and it is the official language of 9 countries. It is ranked as the 6th most-spoken language in the world, after Mandarin, English, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic.. Interestingly, Portuguese is most widely spoken than French, Russian or German! It is also believed that there are more native Portuguese outside of Portugal than in it, with Paris being the city with the highest percentage of Portuguese residents (around 700,000 people). Moreover, 12% of the population of Luxemburg is also Portuguese.
#3 Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots
The Portuguese coastline is well-known among surfers, as it is one of the most popular spots for surfing high waves. With almost 800 km of coastline, Portugal offers a surfing paradise all year long. In fact, in 2011, the Hawaiian surfer, Garrett McNamara broke the world record of the highest wave ever surfed in the small city of Nazaré. He caught a wave of nearly 30 metres high (90 feet) in Praia do Norte.
#4 Portugal is the biggest cork producer in the world
Portugal is already famous for its wine, its Port wine and also for its corks. It produces more than half of the entire world’s corks, which are exported mainly to Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Cork production represents an important part of Portugal’s economy.
#5 Lisbon is home to Europe’s longest bridge
The Vasco De Gama bridge was built in 1998 for the World’s Fair Expo 98. The Fair celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the sea route connecting Europe to India by Portuguese navigator Vasco De Gama. The bridge was built in his honor in Lisbon above the Tagus River and is 17,185 metres long (56,381 ft), thus becoming Europe’s longest bridge. Its construction started in 1995 and took three years to finish. Its goal was also to alleviate congestion inside the city and to ease the traffic between northern and southern parts of the country.
#6 Portugal is ranked as the third most peaceful country in the world
Portugal is ranked as the most peaceful country in Europe and the third most peaceful country in the world, after Iceland and New Zealand, by the Global Peace Index 2017. Portugal has a low crime rate, good living standards, good rankings in terms of freedom and politics are stable.
#7 José Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission, was Portugal’s Prime Minister
Jose Manuel Barroso has been Prime Minister of Portugal from 2002 to 2004 and minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1990s. He worked as president of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014, and was replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker.
#8 Porto’s historical center is a UNESCO-protected site
Porto is Portugal’s second largest city. It is famous for its Port wine, which is produced in the Douro region, in the surroundings of the city. The entire historic center of Porto, also called “Oporto”, has been declared a World Site Heritage by UNESCO in 2006. Built alongside the Douro River, Porto keeps a traditional charm and its old architecture.
Porto is also said to have inspired famous author J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter saga. The bookshop Livraria Lello has particularly inspired her for the description of the Flourish and Blotts bookshop in her first book. The Livraria Lello has often been declared one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.
#9 England and Portugal have the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world
England and Portugal signed the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty in 1373 and it is still in force today. It established “perpetual friendship, unions and alliance” and is the oldest lasting diplomatic alliance in the world. The treaty has been reinforced throughout history and, twice in the past, both countries entered war to defend the other. The UK entered the Iberian Peninsular War in the beginning of the 19th century and Portugal entered World War I.
#10 Portugal is simply gorgeous
Like in many other places, you can find heavenly beautiful landscapes in Portugal, but it also contains many hidden gems! Like the city of Sintra for example, and its castle, the Algarve region, or the Douro region. But in this case, “a picture says more than a thousand words”, so it is better to just show you.
These 10 facts aimed at presenting Portugal under a new light. Maybe you knew all of it already or maybe you discovered new things. And apart from its incredible beaches and landscapes, Portugal has also many more advantages for its society. Portugal legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, and acts as a world leader in terms of renewable energies (the largest solar power plant in the world was built in Amareleja in 2008). It has an advanced economy and high-living standards. It ranks well in terms of moral freedom and press freedom. It is prosperous, stable and has a low crime rate. So if you never thought of visiting Portugal before, maybe you can add it to your bucket list now! If you want to discover traditional Portuguese recipes, follow this link.
If you liked this article, don’t hesitate to leave comments and share your impressions!
Morocco, this small country in the North of the African continent has often remained discreet and quiet, but it could really surprise you! Morocco is located on the Northwest part of Africa, only 13 km away from Spain. Its capital city is Rabat with a population of around 33.9 million people. Moroccans speak Modern Standard Arabic and Berber languages, but French is still widely spoken. Ninety-nine percent of the population is Muslim.
#1 The Oldest university in the world is located in Fez, Morocco.
The University of al-Quaraouiyine is considered to be the oldest university in the world that is still operating today. It was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. It is also comprised of an equally old and famous library. It is located in the medina of Fez, which is the oldest imperial city in Morocco.
#2 Fez is a UNESCO-protected site.
Fez is one of the most ancient cities in Morocco and its medina has been declared a world site heritage by the UNESCO. Fez’s medina is often considered the largest car-free area in the world. The medina covers the entire center of the city and is a labyrinth of small streets going up and down. Some streets are large enough to fit only one average-sized person at the time!
#3 Morocco is a popular setting for film shootings.
“Ouallywood”, as it is called, is a popular filming area located in the Saharan desert, in the region of Ouarzazate. The region is home to the Atlas Film Studios. Big blockbusters likes Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Babel, Gladiator, Asterix & Obelix, Kingdom of Heaven, OSS 177, Sex and the City 2 (etc) have been shot there. Interestingly, the movie “Casablanca”, which was an international success and became one of the greatest movies of all times, was not shot in Morocco at all, but in the Warner studios in Los Angeles!
#4 There is a city in Morocco that is completely blue!
Many cities in Morocco are known to have a color whether it is symbolic or not. Marrakesh, for example, is known as the Red City. Chefchaouen’s is blue. This small mountain city is located on the Northern part of Morocco and it is literally blue. In the medina, the walls, streets and houses have all been painted in blue. Some parts are still in the making, but since it has become a popular tourist attraction, you can be sure that these parts will quickly turn blue. The reason of this cobalt color is quite unknown but it is definitely a must-see!
#5 Morocco will become a solar superpower in 2020.
Not too far from Ouallywood, in the region of Ouarzazate, a solar power plant will be established in the Saharan desert by 2020. This installation will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. Thanks to the Saharan sun, but also wind and hydro power, Morocco hopes to produce half of its electricity with renewables and even export some to Europe. When finished, the four plants in Ouarzazate will occupy an area as large as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and should be able to power 1 million homes.
#6 Morocco was the last country to join the African Union.
Initially, this fact was supposed to read: “Morocco is the only country of Africa that is not part of the African Union”, but we recently discovered that it was not the case anymore. Morocco, indeed, rejoined the Union this year, after 30 years of absence! It had left the African Union in 1984 over disputed territory of Western Sahara.
#7 Morocco is one of the largest producers of illicit hashish in the world.
Even if it is illegal, it is quite common to smoke cannabis in Morocco. The country has been producing massive loads of hashish that is mostly targeted at Europe and European tourists. The Rif region is particularly known for its hashish production, and the blue city of Chefchaouen, especially. Morocco, in general, has been known to be one of the world’s top suppliers.
#8 White is the color of mourning.
In many countries and cultures, black is the color of mourning, and white is a color of freshness or happiness. In Catholicism at least, white is often the color of clothes for most religious ceremonies (marriage, communion, baptism). In Morocco, the color white is used differently - it is used when in mourning.
The symbol of love is also quite unusual in Morocco. The heart often represents love in many countries, but in Morocco, the liver is the symbol of love!
#9 Tea is the most popular drink in Morocco .
Green tea and especially mint tea with fresh leaves of mint is a very popular drink in Morocco. Brewing and serving tea is often seen as a form of art and is culturally significant. Guests are often offered mint tea, and it is considered rude to refuse it. Locally, it is sometimes called “Moroccan Whiskey”, but do not get mistaken , you will not find any alcohol in Morocco.
#10 Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a country.
In 1777, Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize the United States as a new nation. In 1786, Morocco and the USA signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship that, still today, remains the longest standing treaty of the United States (239 years).
Morocco can sometimes be unexpected and surprising! I bet you would not have guessed half of these facts. I you found this article interesting, don’t hesitate to share and comment!
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- Morocco World News. Retrieved from: https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/02/180472/city-officials-dub-ouarzazate-ouallywood-in-new-festival-title/
- Huffpost Maghreb. Retrieved from: http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2017/02/04/cinema-maroc-tournage_n_14597944.html
- Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Al_Quaraouiyine
- UNESCO Website. Retrieved from: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/170
- Fact Retriever. Retrieved from: https://www.factretriever.com/morocco-facts
- The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/26/morocco-poised-to-become-a-solar-superpower-with-launch-of-desert-mega-project
- The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/31/morocco-rejoins-african-union-after-more-than-30-years
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- Facts.net. Retrieved from: http://facts.net/morocco/