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Portugal - Overview

Capital: Lisbon

Population: 10,566,212 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Portuguese (official), Mirandese (official - but locally used)

Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, Protestant (1995)

Currency: euro (EUR)

Timezone: GMT

The Republic of Portugal is located on the westernmost edge of continental Europe, on the southwestern portion of the Iberian Peninsula, encompassing approximately 92,000 square kilometers. It shares an international border in the north and east with its neighbor Spain. The Atlantic ocean (and Portugal's many fine beaches) are to the south and west of the country.

The popular resort islands of Madeira, Porto Santo and the Azores are surrounded by the Atlantic ocean. The Azores are located approximately 750 miles west of Lisbon, the capital.

The northern part of the country is somewhat mountainous, while the south is largely level terrain. Portugal's three largest rivers are the Tagus, Douro, and Minho. The Tagus River runs from Spain through central Portugal, providing a natural division between north and south.

Modern Portugal has evolved since the overthrow of the previous dictatorship in 1974. It entered the ranks of EU member states (formerly the EEC) in 1986. Its primary industries are textiles, footwear, wood products, metalworking, oil refining, chemicals, fish canning, wine, tourism and agriculture.

Lisbon is the cultural, commercial and industrial hub of Portugal. It is situated on seven hills overlooking the Tagus River estuary, and has a well-developed system of ports, shipbuilding installations and steelworks.

Porto is the next largest city, approximately 300 kilometers north of Lisbon on the bank of the Douro River. All port wine exported from Portugal must go through the city of Porto, a testament to its close association to Portugal's wine-making history.

Throughout Portugal there is a chain of Tourist Offices manned by bilingual staff to assist foreign visitors.

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