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Interesting facts about Portugal

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Interesting facts about Portugal

People & Language

  • Portuguese language is spoken by about 230 million people around the world (incl. 210 native speakers), and is the official language of 9 countries.
  • Portuguese language is most closely related to Galician language, spoken in northwestern Spain. Galician could be regarded as a dialect of Portuguese (or vice versa).
  • Almost 12% of the inhabitants of Luxembourg and 3% of the people in France are of Portuguese descent. Paris has the largest Portuguese community outside Portugal and is the second largest Portuguese city after Lisbon based on the number of Portuguese residents.
  • José Manuel Durão Barroso, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, has been President of the European Commission since 2004.

Culture & Traditions

  • Fatalism is an essential trait of Portuguese culture. Fado, as the Portuguese call it, is expressed by the common interjection oxalá, derived from the Arabic Inshallah, and which means "if only" or "hopefully". Fado has given rise to the eponymous music genre, characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Fado has been recognised by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.
  • The world-famous Port wine (also known as "Porto"), a sweet Portuguese fortified wine from the Douro Valley, has been imitated in several countries - notably Australia, South Africa, India and the United States.
  • Over half of the world's cork is produced in Portugal.
  • The Festa de São João do Porto, held on the night of 23 June, is one of the liveliest celebrations in the country. The tradition, which has its roots in pagan courtship rituals, requires participants to hit attractive girls on the head with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers.
  • The Festa do Colete Encanado, held in Vila Franca de Xira, features a running of the bulls, like its more famous counterpart, the San Fermín in Pamplona.

Sports & Recreation

  • The Lisbon-based S.L. Benfica is the world's most supported football club according to the Guinness Book of World Record.
  • In December 2010, the world's largest Santa Claus parade took place in Porto. 14,963 people donned Santa outfits, beating the record of the previous years for the same parade.
  • In October 2011, Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara caught the biggest wave (30 m / 90 ft) ever surfed to date at Praia do Norte, near the town of Nazaré, in central Portugal.
  • As of 2012, the largest firework rocket ever produced was used the 12th International Symposium on Fireworks in Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia on 13th October 2010. It weighted 13.40 kg (29.53 lb).
  • The Portuguese Water Dog has been claimed to be a hypoallergenic dog breed, in part because they do not moult. In 2008, the breed made the headlines when U.S. President Barack Obama and his family were given one as a pet. A Portuguese Water Dog was chosen to become the "First Dog" in part because Malia Obama's allergies.


  • About 15 extant bridges in Portugal date from the Roman period. The most famous one is the Roman Bridge of Chaves, built in 104 CE under the reign of Emperor Trajan.
  • The name Portugal first appears in 868, during the Reconquista over the Muslims. A county was formed around the city of Porto (Portus Cale in Latin), from which "Portugal" is derived.
  • The kingdom of Portugal lasted for nearly 800 years, from 1139 to 1910. Since 1910, the country has been a republic. The modern democratic republic was founded in 1976.
  • The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, signed in 1373, is the oldest alliance in the world which is still in force.
  • Portugal was one of the earliest colonising nation of Europe, starting with Ceuta (1410), Madeira (1419), the Azores (1439), then establishing trading posts along the coast of Africa later in the 15th century. In 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India, and in 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral, en route to India, discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. The Portuguese Empire would rule, among others, over Brazil, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Goa, Daman, Diu, Kochi, Malacca, and Macau. Most of the African colonies were granted independence in 1975. Macau, the last Portuguese colony, was handed over to China in 1999.
  • The first Pirate code was invented in the 17th century by the Portuguese buccaneer Bartolomeu Português.
  • In 1709, the Jesuit priest Bartolomeu de Gusmão invented one of the world's first airships, for which he sought royal favour from King John V. Portugal could have changed history with this invention, had it not been for the Inquisition, which forbade Gusmão to continue his aeronautic investigations and went as far as to persecute him because of them.
  • On 1 November 1755 (All Saints' Day), Lisbon was struck by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale - one of the most powerful in European history. The city was razed to the ground by the earthquake, the subsequent tsunami and ensuing fires. Up to 90,000 of the 275,000 inhabitants were killed and 85% of the buildings were destroyed, including famous palaces and churches, the 70,000-volume royal library, as well as the royal archives, containing the detailed historical records of explorations by Vasco da Gama and other early navigators. The earthquake profoundly disrupted the country's political scene and 18th-century colonial ambitions. Lisbon being the capital of a devout Catholic country with a long history of evangelism in the colonies, the catastrophe caused much embarassment to the Catholic Church, which could not explain this manifestation of the anger of God - striking moreover on a Catholic holiday.
  • In 1761 Portugal became the first colonial power to abolish slavery, half a century before Spain, France, Britain or the USA.

Law & Government

  • The modern Portuguese legal system has been influenced primarily by German law.
  • Due to the influence of Roman Catholicism, Portugal is one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe. Abortion was only legalised through a referendum in 2007, causing much controversy. A Catholic priest vowed to excommunicate all people voting in favour of legalising abortion.
  • Portugal is the only country in the EU, along with Spain, where life imprisonment has been abolished.

Construction & Transports

  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe with 17,185 m (56,381 feet).
  • Until 1986, when Portugal and Spain both joined the European Economic Community, border crossing between the two countries was discouraged. Buses stopped just before the border and were not coordinated with the other side. As recently as 1991, when a Guadiana International Bridge was inaugurated, the only way to travel from southern Portugal to Spain was by boat.
  • In 2006, Portugal established the world's first commercial wave farm (the Aguçadora Wave Park) to produce electricity.
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