Important facts about Spain
The Kingdom of Spain
Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. The mainland of Spain has the Mediterranean Sea and Gibraltar to the south and east, with France, Andorra and the Bay of Biscay to the north, while the west and northwest are bordered by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Spanish territory also incorporates the Mediterranean’s Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands off the African coast in the Atlantic Ocean, and Ceuta and Melilla, two autonomous cities located on the border of Morocco in North Africa.
Land Area & Geography
Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe, after France, and covers an area of 504,030 square kilometers. High plateaus and magnificent mountain ranges dominate Spain’s landscape, with many fast-flowing rivers running from these high mountains forming alluvial plains along the coast.
The climate in Spain is very diverse and is divided into five broad categories: the Continental Mediterranean climate in the Peninsula’s inland areas; the Oceanic climate in an area often referred to as Green Spain near the Bay of Biscay; the Semiarid climate in the southeast; the Mediterranean climate from the Andalusian plain, stretching along the eastern and southern coasts up to the Pyrenees; and a Subtropical climate in the Canary Islands as well as along the coastlines of Granada and Malaga. Contrary to what Professor Higgins in the classic musical, My Fair Lady, would have us believe, the rain in Spain, in fact, falls mainly in the northern mountains.
Natural Resources and Hazards
Spain’s natural resources include marble, coal, iron ore, lignite, copper, zinc, lead, uranium, tungsten, mercury, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin and potash. Arable land in Spain supports farming activities, allowing for production of export quality olive oil and wine, in addition to many other crops. The extreme heat of Spain’s summer months increases the risk of runaway fires, and some areas are subject to drought.
Population and Employment
The population of Spain reached 46 million in 2008. With the exception of Madrid, the coastal areas of Spain are the most densely populated. In 2007, unemployment had been reduced to 8 percent, however in the last quarter of 2008, as has been the case virtually around the world, the unemployment figure started rising with the end of 2008 figure being more than 13 percent.
Approximately 76 percent of Spain’s population follow the Catholic faith, with around 5 percent being members of other religious groups and the remaining 19 percent claiming to be non-religious.
The Spanish flag consists of three horizontal bands, yellow in the center with red on the top and bottom. The national coat of arms, featuring emblems of the traditional kingdoms of Spain, pillars of Hercules and a banner with the words “Plus Ultra” (further beyond), is placed on the hoist side of the central yellow band.
The economy of Spain experienced fairly consistent growth every year from 1994 until entering a recession in the third quarter of 2008. Despite being subject to some of the pressures of the global economic crisis, Spain’s banks have remained solid.
Agricultural Products and Main Industries
The main agricultural products of Spain include grain, vegetables, olives, grapes, citrus, poultry, pork, fish and dairy products. Major industries include textiles, apparel, footwear, metals, chemicals, machine tools, clay and refractory products, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and tourism.
Spain has 154 airports, 8 heliports and a total of 14,974 kilometers of railway lines. Roadways exceed 681,200 kilometers, including 13,872 kilometers of expressways. With ports and terminals at Barcelona, Algeciras, Bilbao, Huelva, Cartagena, Tarragona and Valencia, the country has a large number of merchant marine vessels.
Lying in the middle of the country, on the river Manzanares, Madrid is not only the capital city and political center of Spain, but is also home to the residence of the Spanish monarch and a major financial center of the Iberian Peninsula. With a population exceeding 3.2 million, Madrid is Spain’s largest city and the third most populous city in the European Union, after Paris and London.
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