In this week’s Travel Tuesday feature, we’re taking a trip around the globe, looking at some of the most interesting facts per country. Although there are 196 countries in the world, we’ve taken a bit of a wider look and included other independent or semi-dependent territories from around the world.
So buckle up and sit tight – this is around the world in 235 facts, starting with fact 1 – 51 (A – C). Check in again next week where we’ll carry on with our alphabetic list of country facts.
Around the world in 235 facts – country facts A – C
Poetry is a huge part of Afghan culture and has been for millennia. Each Thursday evening, men, women and children in the western city of Herat come together to share verse and song long into the night.
In 1995, drivers in the city of Shkodra in Albania refused to pay the newly introduced traffic-light tax since the city had no traffic lights. The country’s anarchist civil war in 1997 was started mostly due to pyramid schemes which left the poor people even poorer.
Algeria, which is the largest country in Africa (since South Sudan’s independence in 2011), consists of 80% Saharan desert. Due to the country having mostly Islamic residents and orientation, alcoholic drinks are not sold at any major food establishments and often not listed on menus even if they are available. Petroleum gas makes up 98% of their exports.
- American Samoa
The people living in American Samoa are not considered U.S. citizens, but are U.S. nationals instead. Many of them become naturalised as American citizens. It’s understandable since American Samoa does up to 90% of its foreign trade with the U.S. mostly in the form of canned tuna exports.
Andorra, which is a mere 468,79 square kilometres, has the fourth highest life expectancy in the world (82 years). The country is the world’s only co-principality, which means they have two princes who share seat as rulers.
Although the residents speak many Bantu and other African languages, the official language of Angola is Portuguese. The country’s main sources of income are diamond and oil exports – it is the main provider of oil to China.
Although Antarctica is mostly covered in ice, it is also the location of the earth’s driest place, called Dry Valley, which has not had rain in 2 million years. It has no precipitation and is therefore a 4 800 square kilometre region with no water, ice or snow.
- Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda, which only gained independence in 1981, has no permanent rivers, although there are three streams in Antigua. Hotels on these islands offer their own 24 hour casualty service with resident doctors on call.
Argentinians are the pioneers of fingerprint identification for criminal investigations. They were the first to convict a criminal based on fingerprint identification and prior to this conviction, an immigrant named Juan Vecutich was the first to start a fingerprint filing system in the world.
Armenia, which has the highest mono-ethnicity in the world (97% of the population are Armenian), was the first country in the world to adopt the Christian faith as state religion and home to the first state-built church in the world, called the Holy Etchmiaidzin.
Aruba, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has the same warm weather all year round. The temperature never fluctuates more than four degrees above or below 27.7 degrees Celsius.
Australia has the world’s highest proportion of migrant settlers in the world. Close to 27% of its population consists of immigrants and it is estimated that by 2015 a third of its population will have been born overseas.
Austria has yielded some of the most Nobel Prize laureates per capita (19), which is not surprising seeing as the country has the second lowest unemployment rate in Europe and also work the longest per week – with an average of 45 hours per week.
This country is home to the first known human fireplace, which dates back from 700 000 to 500 000 years ago. Known as the Land of Fire, you can also find the Burning Mountain (Yanar Dag) in the Absheron peninsula. This rare natural wonder is created through natural gas fires which blaze continuously all year round.
The Bahamas was home to the real pirates of the Caribbean in the 18th century. The country is also home to the longest underwater cave system (Lucayan National Park) in the world, as well as the deepest blue hole in the world (Dean’s Blue Hole).
Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, the largest of which is a mere 55 km by 18 km. Many scholars believe Bahrain to be the site of the Garden of Eden due to the garden’s supposed resemblance to the ancient land of Dilmun, which is believed to be the area encompassing Bahrain.
Unlike other countries in the world, Bangladesh has six distinct seasons – grismo (summer), barsha (rainy), sharat (autumn), hemanto (cool), sheet (winter) and bashonto (spring).
The entire capital city of Barbados, Bridgetown, including its Garrison is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the most developed island country in the Caribbean and known as the ‘land of the flying fish’. It is also the birthplace of singer Rihanna.
Although Belarus has approximately 31 banks, only one of these banks is privately owned. The country has the biggest marshes in Europe, including the Zvanets which are 150 square kilometres and it’s also home to the largest ancient forest in Europe, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
Belgium is famous for its chocolate – producing 220 000 tonnes of chocolate per year. The world’s biggest chocolate selling point is Brussels National Airport. In addition to this, the world’s first beer academy can be found in Herk-de-Stad. It’s compulsory for Belgians to vote in elections and to attend formal education until the age of 18.
One of the most popular game meats (and considered a delicacy) in Belize is rodent. It is home to the world’s only Jaguar reserve and has around 900 Mayan ruins scattered throughout the country. It is also the only Central American country where English is the official language.
The capital city of Benin doesn’t have one name, but three. Porto-Novo is also called Adjatche (Yoruban) and Hogbonou (Gounian). Hollywood actor Djimon Hounsou was born in Benin. He is known for his roles in Gladiator, Blood Diamond and Amistad and has been received two Oscar nominations.
Since Bermuda has little fresh water and no natural rivers, the Bermudian settlers started collecting drinking water through white guttered rooftops which direct water into caged off drains which lead to filtration systems, making the water drinkable.
Bhutan was the first country in the world which set down specific constitutional obligations to residents to protect the environment. One of these requirements is that 60% of the nation consists of forest at all times. A third of the country’s population is under the age of 14.
Bolivia’s capital city, La Paz, is the unofficial highest capital of the world, at 3 650m. Although its official capital is Sucre, the working capital is found in La Paz. It is also home to the world’s most dangerous road called Camino de las Yungas, which sees up to 300 fatalities each year.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
The currency in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Convertible Marka, cannot be exchanged outside country borders, which is why most visitors prefer to use Euros when travelling to this country.
Botswana is known to many as a natural haven. It is home to the world’s largest population of African elephants as well as the largest inland delta, the Okavango Delta. The country is the world’s biggest diamond producer in terms of value and the second biggest in terms of production, with about 17.7% of the world’s diamond production.
Brazil is an enormous country – making up almost 50% of the South American continent. One of its cities, Sao Paulo, has the largest economy by GDP in the Southern Hemisphere. According to a 2007 report, Brazil has approximately 70 uncontacted tribes living in the Brazilian Amazon.
- Brunei Darussalam
Although Brunei is considered a developing country, the residents don’t pay tax and get free education and health care as well as subsidised food and housing.
As the oldest country in Europe not to have changed its name since being established (681 AD), Bulgaria is also home to the second oldest city in Europe. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame has Bulgarian ancestry – his grandfather, Marko, hails from Bulgaria.
- Burkina Faso
The capital Ouagadougou’s English translation means ‘You are welcome here at home with us’. It is home to the largest craft market in Africa, the SIAO (Le Salon International de L’Artisanat de Ouagadougou). It covers more than 8 000 square metres and has seen more than 400 000 visitors per year.
One of the smallest countries in the world, Burundi has 17 provinces and consists of about 67% Roman Catholic population. The country’s largest source of revenue is coffee, which makes up around 93% of its exports.
The Cambodian flag is the only flag in the world with an image of a building, The Angkor Wat, which is the ancient temple discovered by French explorers in the 19th century.
Cameroon is known as one of the wettest countries in the world, with an annual rainfall of about 1 028 cm. Lake Nyos in Cameroon is considered the world’s most deadly with poisonous gases seeping out from the volcano below.
Canada is considered one of the world’s most educated, with 42% of the population having a higher education qualification. It is the only country in the world which used to have polar bear shaped license plates (in Nunavut).
- Cape Verde
Cape Verde is, in actual fact, a marine extension of the Sahara desert. A series of warm winds carry brown dust from the Sahara to the islands. There are more Cape Verdeans living abroad than there are living within country borders.
- Cayman Islands
One of the greatest sources of income in the Cayman Islands is financial services, due mostly to the fact that the islands are tax free. Its currency, the Cayman Island Dollar, is pegged to the dollar at CI$1 to US$1.22.
- Central African Republic
Due to military and political unrest, the Central African Republic is one of the least developed countries in the world. Since gaining independence in 1960, four of its five presidents have been ousted through constitutional means. President Francois Bozize was ousted by coalition rebels in March 2013, sending the republic into chaos.
Chad is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, with 80% of the people living under the poverty line, and about 200 000 Sudanese refugees within its borders. Lake Chad is one of the greatest sources of income through attracting tourists to its spectacular beauty.
Chile is the world’s longest country in the world. It stretches 4 620 km from north to south. It is one of the first countries in the world where the government has supported UFO research, with a 19-mile UFO trail opened in the town of San Clemente in 2008.
China is the world’s most populous country in the world, with over 1,38 billion people – which essentially means one in five people in the world are Chinese. It also has the world’s largest standing army and second-largest defense budget. White instead of black is the colour of morning, and red means prosperity and growth, unlike the west where it’s a sign of decline and warning.
- Christmas Island
With one of the smallest populations in the world (just over 2 500), Christmas Island offers its residents freedom of speech and press. Despite this fact, the country has no major newspaper which is locally printed, and only one radio station or local broadcast station. It has no indigenous population.
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Although consisting of 27 coral islands and two atolls, Cocos Islands cover a mere 14 square kilometres. Its sole cash crop comes from coconuts which grow throughout the islands.
As a megadiverse territory, Colombia is ranked one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. It hosts 10% of the planet’s biodiversity – ranking first for bird and orchid species and second for plants, butterflies, freshwater fish and amphibians. It is also the world’s leading source of emeralds.
The Comoros is the largest producer of ylang-ylang – an ingredient in fragranced aromatherapy oils. Consequently, perfume distillation is also one of its greatest industries, in addition to tourism.
- Cook Islands
Although the total land area of the Cook Islands covers a mere 236,7 square kilometres, its economic zone (the territorial waters), stretches for nearly 2 million kilometres, which is also the area with the largest shark and whale sanctuary.
- Costa Rica
Costa Rican children in rural areas can rest assured that they won’t miss school, as lessons are broadcast over a national radio station, contributing to the country’s 96% literacy rate.
Vinkovci in eastern Croatia is the oldest city in Europe, with a history over 8 000 years old. The country has one of the highest emigration rates in the world. An intricate network of islands, it consists of 1 244 islands, islets and reefs of which less than 50 are inhabited and more than 10% is protected.
Do you like hitchhiking? Well if you’re in Cuba you’re in luck, provided you can get a government vehicle to pass you – as it’s mandatory for government vehicles to pick up hitchhikers. It is said that their once leader, Fidel Castro, only grew his famous beard because the US embargo had cut off his supply of razors.
Commandaria, an amber-coloured sweet dessert wine which is produced in the Commandaria region of Cyprus, is the oldest named wine still in production. It is said this wine was christened by crusaders in the 13th century and may have been in production for more than 5 000 years according to CNN.
- Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is almost entirely surrounded by mountains, which also form natural borders with both Germany and Poland. Residents are said to be the highest consumers of beer per capita in the world, with 142.6 litres per capita each year.
That’s it for this week’s edition of around the world in 235 facts. Check in again next week where we’ll cover some more amazing facts.