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Portugal

A map of Portugal Portugal lies on the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Spain. It the westernmost country of mainland Europe. The northern part of the country is rugged and mountainous with a coastal plain. In the south there are low plateaus separated by wide valleys sloping down to lowlands along the coast. Portugal has a Mediterranean climate; summers are long, hot and dry, while winters are warm and rainy. In the northern uplands, the climate can be cooler and wetter; snow falls regularly on the mountains in winter. Portugal once ruled over a vast overseas empire, including Brazil, several African territories and parts of India. During the 20th century, wars within these overseas territories, along with the rule of a harsh dictatorship at home, caused the fortunes of the empire to decline. Today, all of Portugal's former territories are independent countries. Portugal still holds sovereignty over the Azores and Madeira, island archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Both are autonomous regions: they have their own governments.



A map of Portugal
Masks Festival, Lisbon

People

The Portuguese are mostly descendants of people who have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years. Nearly everyone is Roman Catholic; religious feasts, saints' days and festivals are important celebrations in Portugal. The coastal plain is the most-populated part of the country: around one third of the population lives in and around the big cities of Lisbon and Porto. Portugal has long been a country of emigration, notably to Brazil and its African and Far Eastern territories. Nowadays, there has been a reverse trend, with more people coming to live in Portugal than leaving.

Portugal was the last European power to give up its overseas possessions in Africa. Angola, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) and Mozambique were all Portuguese territories until the mid-1970s.

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