Portugal’s position on the edge of the Atlantic has shaped its history. From the 15th century explorers such as Vasco da Gama helped build a huge empire which embraced Brazil as well as large parts of Africa and Asia.
There are still some 200 million Portuguese speakers around the world today and Portugal’s architecture and arts are heavily influenced by Moorish and Oriental culture.
Like its Iberian neighbour Spain, Portugal was ruled by a dictator for decades in the 20th century. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s era was brought to an end in 1974 in a bloodless coup, known as the Revolution of the Carnations.
Portugal joined the EU in 1986, and while its traditional agricultural-based economy has broadened to encompass service industries, its GDP remains well below the EU average. In 2011 it became the third EU country, after Greece and Ireland, to be bailed out by the EU/IMF.
It has a population of 10.7 million.
There is more to Portugese cuisine than piri-piri chicken. Salt cod (bacalhau) is a staple as is the pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart. And it is famous for its wines, from port to the vinho verde.