Spain's earliest occupants, the Iberians, the Basques, and the Celts became part of the Roman Empire in the second century BC. By 711 AD, the Muslim army invaded Iberia from North Africa, and within a few years, they had conquered the entire country. In 732 AD, Charles Martel defeated the Muslims near Poitier, and halted the spread of Islam. By 913 AD, the Christian capital was set up in Leon, and by 1492 the last Muslim stronghold in Granada was captured.
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Spain is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the Bay of Biscay to the north, the North Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Strait of Gibraltar to the south. Across the Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco is about 14 kilometers away. France borders Spain along its northeast border, and Portugal is situated to the west. Spain has a total area of 505,370 square kilometers (195,364 square miles).
Between 1701 and 1714, a series of Spanish wars took place, which also resulted in Spain's loss of other European nations including Belgium, Milan, and Luxembourg. Around 1913, Spain became a republic, and by 1975 a constitutional monarchy. Spain held its first election in 1977 and by 1978 a parliamentary monarchy was established.
Economy and Challenges
Spain, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe during ancient times, has struggled to gain economic stability in recent times. Spain's capitalist mixed economy is the twelfth largest in the world. Spain's GDP in 2011 has been estimated at $1.413 trillion. Spain's economy was hit by a recession in late 2007, but by 2011 the country began experiencing positive growth. Spain's GDP gets a substantial contribution from the tourism industry. In fact, Spain's tourism industry is the second largest in the world.
Spain is also one of the world's leading countries in the development and production of renewable energy. In 2010, Spain opened a solar power plant in Badajoz, called La Florida, which became the world leader.
Tourism contributes substantially to Spain's economy. One of the world's most visited tourist destinations, Spain is famous for its picturesque landscapes, mild climate, and vast beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, which attract tourists throughout the year. Aside from the natural attractions, Spain's culture and festivals such as La Tomatina and the Running of the Bulls also attract tourists. Spain is the second most mountainous country of Europe. These snow-covered mountains have world famous ski slopes that attract tourists during winter. With so much to offer, Spain is often called a tourist's paradise.
Facts About Spain
- Spain won its first World Cup football title in 2010.
- In Spanish, the country is called España (or Reino de España, the Kingdom of Spain).
- Spain aims to have over 1 million electric cars on the road by 2014.
- Same-sex marriage is legal in Spain.
- Spain produces 44% of all the world's olive oil.
- Bullfighting is considered an art form in Spain, and is one of the biggest and most controversial sports in the country.
- State education in Spain is free and compulsory from the age of 6 to 16.
- Spain has the highest number of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops in the European Union (around 350,000).
- Spain has been the biggest donor of organs in the world for 15 consecutive years.
- Spain ranks third in the world, after the US and Brazil, in the prevalence of plastic surgery.
- The flag of Spain consists of 3 horizontal stripes of red, yellow, and red. It was chosen by Charles III of Spain from 12 different flags.
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