Macao also spelled Macau, is a Portuguese territory on the southeast coast of China. It consists of the city of Macao, which occupies a peninsula, and the islands of Taipa and Coloane. The territory has a population of about 436,000 and covers about 61/2 square miles (17 square kilometres). It lies at the mouth of the Zhu Jiang (Pearl River), about 40 miles (64 kilometres) west of Hong Kong.
Some areas of Macao have old, pastel-coloured houses that line cobblestone streets. Other sections include modern high-rise hotels and apartment buildings. More than 90 percent of the people are Chinese, and most of the rest are Portuguese. Macao's economy is based on tourism and light industry, chiefly the manufacture of fireworks and textiles. Gambling casinos in Macao attract many tourists, mainly from Hong Kong.
A governor appointed by the president of Portugal heads Macao's government. A legislative assembly of appointed and elected members makes laws for the territory. But in practice, China dominates Macao's political life. The Chinese government may veto any government policies or laws concerning the territory.
The Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macao in 1557. China has allowed them to remain because Macao contributes to China's economy. Macao buys almost all its food and drinking water from China. These purchases provide China with foreign currency, which it uses in international trade. However, in 1987, China and Portugal signed an agreement under which control of Macao will be transferred from Portugal to China in December 1999.
The country of Macedonia has an area of 9,928 square miles (25,713 square kilometres). Greek Macedonia covers 13,206 square miles (34,203 square kilometres), and Bulgarian Macedonia 2,502 square miles (6,480 square kilometres). The region of Macedonia became powerful in ancient times, when Macedonian leader Alexander the Great conquered much of Asia and spread Macedonian and Greek culture throughout his empire.
The earliest known settlements in what is now Macedonia were villages established about 6200 B.C. Many different peoples settled in the region over the next several thousand years. The people living there eventually came to be known as Macedones, and the region as Macedonia. The name Macedones comes from the Greek word makednon, meaning high - a reference to the group's mountainous homeland.
The first known rulers of the Macedonians were members of the Argead dynasty (family of rulers), founded by King Perdiccas I about 650 B.C. During the 500's and 400's B.C., the Argeads expanded Macedonian rule into nearby regions.
King Philip II, an Argead, continued this expansion and eventually invaded central Greece. By 338 B.C., Philip controlled all of Greece. With these acquisitions, Macedonia gained valuable natural resources.
Philip was assassinated in 336. His son, Alexander, became king. Crowned King Alexander III, Philip's son became known as Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, which stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to India. The arts flourished under Alexander's rule. Macedonia also became extremely wealthy after acquiring the riches of the defeated Persian Empire.
Alexander died in 323 B.C., without leaving a strong successor. Political unity soon collapsed, as Macedonia's army generals divided up the empire.
Macedonia became a Roman province in the 140's B.C. The region became part of the Byzantine Empire in A.D. 395. In the A.D. 500's, Slavs from eastern Europe raided, and settled in, Macedonian towns. Bulgars from central Asia conquered Macedonia in the late 800's. In 1018, the Byzantine Empire regained control. The region came under Serbian rule in the early 1300's. But in 1371, the Ottoman Empire conquered the region. Macedonia remained part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years.
By the late 1800's, the Ottoman Empire had begun to collapse. In 1878, Bulgaria controlled Macedonia briefly. But most of Macedonia was returned to Ottoman rule that same year.
At the end of the Second Balkan War (1913), Macedonia was divided among Serbia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Serbian Macedonia became the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia in 1946. The republic became an independent country in 1991.
1209 miles from London
GMT +1 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Macedonian Dinar (MKD)
Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish
8 September - Independence Day
Dimitrija Chupovski 26
Telephone (00 389) 91116772
Opening hours 0700 to 1530 in summer, 0800 to 1630 in winter (local time)
Rising yellow sun with 8 rays extending to the edges of a red field
Madagascar is an African country made up of one large island and many tiny nearby islands. It lies in the Indian Ocean, about 240 miles (386 kilometres) southeast of the African mainland. The large island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth largest island in the world. Only Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo are larger islands. Most of the country's people are farmers or herders of mixed black African and Indonesian descent. Antananarivo is the largest city.
Malagasy and French.
226,658 sq. mi. (587,041 sq. km).
north-south, 980 mi. (1,580 km);
east-west, 360 mi. (579 km).
Coastline - 2,600 mi. (4,180 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 13,309,000; density, 59 persons per sq. mi. (23 persons per sq. km); distribution, 73 percent rural, 27 percent urban. 1993 census - 12,092,157. Estimated 2001 population - 15,533,000.
"Ry Tanindrazanay Malala O" ("Our Beloved Country").
Basic unit - franc.
Agriculture - cassava, cloves, coffee, livestock, rice, sugar cane, vanilla.
Mining - bauxite, chromite, coal, graphite.
Manufacturing - food processing.
A white vertical stripe appears at the left, with a red horizontal stripe over a green one at the right. White is for purity, red for sovereignty, and green for hope.
Malawi is a small scenic country in southeastern Africa. It is about 520 miles (837 kilometres) long and from 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 kilometres) wide. Malawi lies on the western shore of Lake Nyasa, called Lake Malawi in that country.
Ancient volcanic activity left Malawi with rich soil. But only about one-third of the land is suitable for agriculture because mountains, forests, and rough pastures cover most of the country.
The country takes its name from the Malawi kingdom, which was established by local people during the 1500's. Once the British protectorate of Nyasaland, Malawi became an independent country in 1964. Blantyre is the largest city.
Chichewa and English.
45,747 sq. mi. (118,484 sq. km).
Estimated 1996 population - 11,552,000; density, 253 persons per sq. mi. (97 persons per sq. km); distribution, 86 percent rural, 14 percent urban. 1987 census - 7,988,507. Estimated 2001 population - 12,917,000.
Basic unit - kwacha.
Agriculture - corn, cotton, hides and skins, peanuts, sorghum, sugar cane, tea, tobacco.
Manufacturing and processing - bricks, cement, cotton goods, food processing.
Flag: The flag has black, red, and green horizontal stripes, with a red rising sun on the black stripe.
Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. It consists of two regions about 400 miles (644 kilometres) apart, which are separated by the South China Sea. The regions are Peninsular (formerly West) Malaysia, on the southern part of the Malay Peninsula; and Sarawak and Sabah (formerly East Malaysia), on the northern part of the island of Borneo.
Malaysia is a tropical land, much of which is covered by dense rain forests. It ranks as the world's largest producer of natural rubber and palm oil (vegetable oil from palm tree nuts). Malays and Chinese people make up most of the country's population. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's largest city.
The nation of Malaysia was formed in 1963, when Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah, and Singapore united. Malaya was an independent nation that occupied what is now Peninsular Malaysia. Sarawak and Sabah were separate British colonies that covered what is now the Malaysian region of Sarawak and Sabah. Singapore was a British colony south of Malaya. Singapore withdrew from the nation in 1965.
127,320 sq. mi. (329,758 sq. km).
Highest - Mount Kinabalu, 13,431 ft. (4,094 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level, along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 20,532,000; density, 161 persons per sq. mi. (62 per sq. km); distribution, 53 percent rural, 47 percent urban. 1991 census - 17,566,982. Estimated 2001 population - 22,648,000.
Basic unit - ringgit (sometimes called Malaysian dollar).
Agriculture - cacao, coconuts, palm oil, pepper, pineapples, rice, rubber, timber.
Manufacturing - air conditioners, cement, processed foods, rubber goods, semiconductors, textiles.
Mining - bauxite, copper, gold, iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, tin.
"Negara Ku" ("My Country").
A yellow crescent and star lie on a blue background in the upper left corner. The crescent represents Islam. The star's 14 points and the flag's 14 red and white stripes symbolise Malaysia's 14 original states.
Maldives is the smallest independent country in Asia and one of the smallest in the world. It consists of about 1,200 small coral islands that form a chain 475 miles (764 kilometres) long and 80 miles (129 kilometres) wide in the Indian Ocean. The northern tip of the Maldives is about 370 miles (595 kilometres) south of India. These tropical islands cover a total of only 115 square miles (298 square kilometres). Fishing and tourism are the main economic activities.
Britain governed the Maldives as a protectorate for 78 years. The islands became independent in 1965. The official language is Dhivehi, and the country's name in that language is Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa (Republic of Maldives). Male is the largest city.
Total Land Area
115 sq. mi. (298 sq. km).
north-south, 550 mi. (885 km);
east-west, 100 mi. (161 km).
Highest - 80 ft. (24 m) above sea level, on Wilingili Island.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 255,000; density, 2,217 persons per sq. mi. (856 per sq. km); distribution, 67 percent rural, 33 percent urban. 1990 census - 213,215. Estimated 2001 population - 294,000.
Agriculture - chili peppers, coconuts, millet, sweet potatoes.
Fishing - bonito, tuna.
Handicrafts - coir yarn, cowrie shells, shirts and sweaters, woven mats.
The flag has a white crescent on a dark green rectangle with a red border. The colours and the crescent on the flag stand for Islam. It was adopted in 1965.
Basic unit - rufiyaa.
Mali is a large country in western Africa. The Sahara, Africa's great desert, covers the northern half of the country. Rolling grassland spreads across most of the rest of Mali.
Mali is a poor, agricultural country. At times, droughts have led to large numbers of deaths of people and animals there. Most of Mali's people are Africans who live in small rural villages and farm for a living. Many of the country's farmers produce only enough food for their own families. Many others raise livestock in the desert. Mali has a variety of mineral and water resources, but they are largely undeveloped. Manufacturing and mining contribute relatively little to the economy.
From about the A.D. 300's to the late 1500's, one or more of three powerful empires - Ghana, Mali, and Songhai - thrived in what is now Mali. France ruled Mali from 1895 to 1959. Mali became an independent nation in 1960. Its name in French, the official language, is Republique du Mali (Republic of Mali). Bamako is Mali's largest city.
478,841 sq. mi. (1,240,192 sq. km).
east-west, 1,150 mi. (1,851 km);
north-south, 1,000 mi. (1,609 km).
Coastline - none.
Highest - Hombori Tondo, 3,789 ft. (1,155 m) above sea level;
Lowest - 75 ft. (23 m) above sea level, at the western border.
Estimated 1996 population - 11,124,000; density, 23 persons per sq. mi. (9 per sq. km); distribution, 73 percent rural, 27 percent urban. 1987 census - 7,696,348. Estimated 2001 population - 12,927,000.
Agriculture - cassava, corn, cotton, livestock, millet, peanuts, rice, sorghum, sugar cane, yams.
Fishing - carp, catfish, perch.
Manufacturing - food products, leather products, textiles.
Mining - salt, gold.
"A Ton Appel Mali" ("At Your Call Mali").
Basic unit - franc.
The flag has vertical stripes of green, gold, and red. The stripes symbolise devotion to a republican form of government and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, about 60 miles (97 kilometres) south of Sicily. It consists of the inhabited islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino, and the tiny, uninhabited islands of Cominotto and Filfla. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
Terrace farming over much of Malta makes the countryside look much like giant steps. The balmy climate attracts many visitors. Tourists also come to Malta to view some of the world's finest examples of Baroque and Renaissance art and architecture.
Malta was once a British crown colony. In 1964, Malta became an independent country. Valletta, on the island of Malta, is the chief port.
122 sq. mi. (316 sq. km).
Estimated 1996 population - 370,000; density, 3,033 persons per sq. mi. (1,171 per sq. km); distribution, 89 percent urban, 11 percent rural. 1985 census - 345,418. Estimated 2001 population - 383,000.
Agriculture - grapes, milk, onions, potatoes, tomatoes.
Manufacturing and processing - beverages, processed food, shipbuilding and repair.
"Innu Malti" ("Maltese Anthem").
A replica of the George Cross, a British medal awarded to Malta for bravery in World War II, appears on a white and red field.
1301 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Maltese and English
Vehicle nationality plates
21 September - Independence Day
British High Commission
P O Box 506
7 St Anne Street
Telephone (00 365) 233134
Opening hours 0800 to 1645 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1315 Friday in winter 0630 to 1230 Monday to Friday in summer (local time)
2 vertical bands of white and red with the George Cross, edged in red, in the upper corner
Marshall Islands is a country in the North Pacific Ocean. It consists of 29 ring-shaped strips of land called atolls and 5 tiny islands. The country has a total land area of only about 70 square miles (180 square kilometres). But the land is scattered over about 780,000 square miles (2,020,000 square kilometres) of ocean.
The United States gained control of the Marshall Islands in 1944. Although the Marshalls now form an independent country, the United States is responsible for the country's defence. The atoll of Majuro is the capital. The U.S. dollar serves as the basic unit of currency. The country's official name is Republic of the Marshall Islands. The national anthem is "Forever Marshall Islands."
The Marshall Islands is a parliamentary democracy. The parliament, called the Nitijela, has 33 members. The members of the Nitijela are elected by the people. The Nitijela elects a president from among its members. The president appoints cabinet ministers to handle government operations. The 12-member Council of Iroij (traditional chiefs) reviews legislation affecting customary law.
Most of the people of the Marshall Islands are Micronesians. About half of the country's approximately 57,000 people live on Majuro Atoll. Another 20 percent reside on Ebeye Island in Kwajalein Atoll. The rest of the people are scattered among the mostly rural outer islands. The country's official languages are Marshallese and English.
Life in the country's urban areas has begun to resemble life in the United States. Residents depend heavily on food, clothing, and other goods imported from the United States and other countries. Most people live in simple wooden or cement houses with iron roofs. Electricity, telephones, and televisions are common.
A more traditional way of life continues in rural areas. Rural men provide food by fishing and raising such crops as breadfruit, arrowroot, pandanus, and coconuts. They build small thatched houses or wooden houses with tin roofs. Rural women run the household, prepare meals, care for children, and make handicrafts. Most of the people are Christians, but some follow the Baha'i faith.
Most of the country is made up of atolls, which consist of clusters of coral islets and strips of land surrounding a lagoon. The climate is hot and humid. The average temperature is about 81 °F (27 °C). Average annual rainfall is 80 inches (200 centimetres) in the north and 160 inches (410 centimetres) in the south.
The chief employers in the Marshall Islands are the country's national government and a United States missile base on Kwajalein Atoll. Coconuts rank as the main agricultural product. Copra (dried coconut meat) and handicrafts are the chief manufactured products. Tourism is a small, but growing, industry.
The first people to settle on the islands probably came from Southeast Asia between A.D. 500 and 1200. In the early 1500's, Spanish explorers became the first Europeans to arrive. The Marshall Islands are named for British Captain John Marshall, who saw the islands in 1788 as he sailed from Australia to China.
Germany gained control of the Marshalls in 1886. Japan took over the islands in 1914, at the beginning of World War I. In 1944, during World War II, the United States invaded the Marshalls and defeated the Japanese in major battles at Kwajalein and Enewetak atolls. In 1947, the United States began administering the islands as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. military tested nuclear weapons on Bikini and Enewetak atolls. Before the testing, the inhabitants had been resettled on other islands as a safety measure.
The Marshall Islands adopted its own constitution in 1979. In 1986, the United States granted independence to the Marshall Islands. Under a Compact of Free Association, the United States retained use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll. In return, the United States agreed to defend the Marshall Islands and provide economic aid.
Martinique is a French island in the West Indies. The oval-shaped island covers 425 square miles (1,100 square kilometres). Martinique's capital is Fort-de-France.
Martinique has many volcanic mountains. The highest and most famous of these is Mont Pelee, which rises 4,583 feet (1,397 metres). This volcano suddenly erupted in 1902 and destroyed the city of St.-Pierre. About 38,000 people died. Only one person survived.
Martinique has about 360,000 people. Ninety per cent of the people are blacks. Others are of European ancestry, mainly French. Martinique's sunny climate and beautiful scenery help make tourism its most important industry. Its chief crop is sugar cane. Bananas, cotton, pineapples, and tobacco also grow there. Other industries include petroleum refining and rum distilling.
Christopher Columbus reached Martinique in 1502, on his fourth voyage. The French began to colonise the island in 1635. They made Fort-de-France (originally Fort Royal) the capital in 1692. The Empress Josephine, first wife of Napoleon I, was born at Trois-Ilets in Martinique. The French made Martinique an overseas department (administrative district) in 1946. In 1958, Martinique chose to remain a department. It is governed by a general council elected by the people. In 1974, the island also became a region of France. As a region, it has a regional council responsible for social and economic planning. The island sends representatives to the French Parliament.
Mauritania is a country in western Africa. It stretches eastward from the Atlantic coast into the Sahara. Arabic-speaking people called Moors make up most of the population. Africans form a large minority group.
Mauritania was once a colony in French West Africa. It became independent in 1960. Its name in French is Republique Islamique de Mauritanie (Islamic Republic of Mauritania). The name comes from the fact that almost all the people are Muslims. Nouakchott, a town of about 350,000 people, is the largest city.
Arabic, Poular, Soninke, Wolof.
397,956 sq. mi. (1,030,700 sq. km).
north-south, 800 mi. (1,287 km);
east-west, 780 mi. (1,255 km).
Coastline - 414 mi. (666 km).
Highest - Kediet Ijill, 3,002 ft. (915 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 2,399,000; density, 6 persons per sq. mi. (2 per sq. km); distribution, 54 percent urban, 46 percent rural. 1988 census - 1,864,236. Estimated 2001 population - 2,752,000.
Agriculture - dates, gum arabic, livestock (cattle, sheep, goats), millet.
Mining - iron ore.
Fishing - ocean and freshwater fish.
Basic unit - ouguiya.
The flag is green and has a yellow star and crescent in the centre. The green colour and the star and crescent stand for Mauritania's ties to Islam and the rest of northern Africa. The yellow stands for the country's ties to nations south of the Sahara.
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Its chief island, also called Mauritius, lies about 500 miles (800 kilometres) east of Madagascar and about 2,450 miles (3,943 kilometres) southwest of India. Overpopulation is one of the country's problems.
Sugar cane fields cover about half of the island. Bare, black volcanic peaks tower over the sugar cane fields.
The Dutch claimed Mauritius in 1598. Later, France and then Britain ruled the island. Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968. It remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Port Louis is the leading port.
788 sq. mi. (2,040 sq. km).
Greatest length - 38 mi. (61 km).
Greatest width - 29 mi. (47 km).
Coastline - 100 mi. (161 km).
Highest - 2,711 ft. (826 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 1,140,000; density, 1,447 persons per sq. mi. (559 per sq. km); distribution, 56 percent rural, 44 percent urban. 1990 census - 1,056,660. Estimated 2001 population - 1,193,000.
Agriculture - sugar.
Basic unit - rupee.
The flag's four horizontal stripes are red, blue, yellow, and green (top to bottom). Red stands for the struggle for freedom, blue for the Indian Ocean, yellow for the light of independence shining over the island, and green for agriculture. Adopted 1968.
Comoros is an archipelago (group of islands) in the Indian Ocean between the mainland of Africa and the island country of Madagascar. Comoros consists of four main islands--Anjouan, Grande Comore, Mayotte, and Moheli--and several smaller ones.
All the islands belonged to France until 1975. Three of the four largest islands declared their independence that year, but Mayotte chose to remain a French possession. The Comoran government considers Mayotte part of the country, but the people of Mayotte have voted to stay under French rule.
The country's official name is the Federal and Islamic Republic of the Comoros. The islands, including Mayotte, have an area of 863 square miles (2,235 square kilometres). Mayotte has an area of 144 square miles (373 square kilometres). Moroni, on Grande Comore, is the capital and largest city.
Comorian and French.
Total Land Area
863 square miles (2,235 sq. km).
Coastline - 243 mi. (391 km). Area figures include Mayotte.
Highest - Mont Kartala, 7,746 ft. (2,361 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 676,000; density, 783 persons per sq. mi. (302 per sq. km), distribution, 69 percent rural, 31 percent urban. 1991 census - 446,817. Estimated 2001 population - 804,000. Population figures include Mayotte.
Basic unit - franc.
bananas, cassava, cloves, coconuts, corn, perfume oil, rice, sweet potatoes, vanilla.
A green field covers the flag. A crescent moon and four five-pointed stars are located in the centre. The green colour and the crescent symbolise Islam. The four stars on the flag represent the four islands of the country.
Mexico is the northernmost country of Latin America. It lies just south of the United States. The Rio Grande forms about two-thirds of the boundary between Mexico and the United States. Among all the countries of the Western Hemisphere, only the United States and Brazil have more people than Mexico. Mexico City is the largest city of Mexico. It also is one of the world's largest metropolitan areas in population.
To understand Mexico, it is necessary to view the nation's long early history. Hundreds of years ago, the Indians of Mexico built large cities, developed a calendar, invented a counting system, and used a form of writing. The last Indian empire in Mexico - that of the Aztec - fell to Spanish invaders in 1521. For the next 300 years, Mexico was a Spanish colony. The Spaniards took Mexico's riches, and the Indians remained poor and uneducated. But the Spaniards also introduced many changes in farming, government, industry, and religion.
During the Spanish colonial period, a third group of people developed in Mexico. These people, who had both Indian and white ancestors, became known as mestizos. Today, the great majority of Mexicans are mestizos. Some of them think of the Spaniards as intruders and take great pride in their Indian ancestry. A number of government programs stress the Indian role in Mexican culture. In 1949, the government made an Indian the symbol of Mexican nationality. The Indian was Cuauhtemoc, the last Aztec emperor. Cuauhtemoc's bravery under torture by the Spanish made him a Mexican hero.
Few other countries have so wide a variety of landscapes and climates within such short distances of one another. Towering mountains and high, rolling plateaus cover more than two-thirds of Mexico. The climate, land formation, and plant life in these rugged highlands may vary greatly within a short distance. Mexico also has tropical forests, dry deserts, and fertile valleys.
Manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and tourism are all important to Mexico's economy. Leading manufactured products include automobiles, cement, chemicals, clothing, processed foods, and steel. Crops are grown on only about an eighth of Mexico's land. The rest of the land is too dry, mountainous, or otherwise unsuitable for crops. However, Mexico is one of the world's leading producers of cacao beans, coffee, corn, oranges, and sugar cane.
Mexico is rich in minerals. It is the leading producer of silver in the world. The country also has large deposits of copper, gold, lead, salt, and sulphur. Petroleum production has long been important in Mexico. During the 1970's, vast, newly discovered deposits of petroleum greatly increased the importance of the country's petroleum industry. More than 6 million tourists visit Mexico each year. The money they spend contributes to the nation's economy.
The Mexicans gained independence from Spain in 1821. A social revolution began in 1910, when the people of Mexico started a long struggle for social justice and economic progress. During this struggle, the government took over huge, privately owned farmlands and divided them among millions of landless farmers. The government established a national school system to promote education, and it has built many hospitals and housing projects.
Since the 1940's, the government has especially encouraged the development of manufacturing and petroleum production. But all these changes have not kept up with Mexico's rapid population growth, and the country faces increasingly difficult economic and social problems. More than a third of the people still live in poverty, and the government keeps expanding its programs to help them.
Spanish. But about 7 percent of Mexicans use Nahuatl, Maya, Zapotec, or some other American Indian language.
Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States).
"Himno Nacional de Mexico" ("National Anthem of Mexico").
Mexico City (8,235,744);
Mexico lies in North America. It is bordered by the United States on the north and by Guatemala and Belize on the southeast. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea lie to the east; the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. A chain of high volcanic mountains extends east-west across southern Mexico, just south of Mexico City. Lower mountain chains extend northwestward from each end of the volcanic chain, forming a great U-shape of mountains. Much of north-central Mexico is a high plateau rimmed by these mountain ranges. The Pacific Coast in the far south is rugged and has densely forested areas. The long peninsula of Baja California in the northwest is mostly desert with some mountains. The Yucatan Peninsula in the southeast is flat and forested. Mexico's chief rivers are the Rio Grande (at the U.S. border) and the Balsas.
756,066 sq. mi. (1,958,201 sq. km).
north-south, 1,250 mi. (2,012 km);
east-west, 1,900 mi. (3,060 km).
Coastline - 6,320 mi. (10,170 km).
Highest - Pico de Orizaba (also called Citlaltepetl), 18,410 ft. (5,610 m).
Lowest - near Mexicali, 33 ft. (10 m) below sea level.
Northwest and north-central Mexico are mostly desert, with hot summers and cool to mild winters. The northeast coast has moderate rainfall with mild winters and warm summers. Central Mexico is dry, with temperatures varying according to altitude. High locations, such as Mexico City, have mild temperatures the year around. Low-altitude locations are warmer. Southern Mexico, including Yucatan, is warm and moist the year around.
Form of Government
President (elected to 6-year term).
Congress of two houses - 128-member Senate and 500-member Chamber of Deputies.
Highest court is the Supreme Court of Justice.
31 states, 1 federal district.
1998 estimate - 98,766,000. 1990 census - 81,140,922. 2003 estimate - 106,740,000. Population Density: 131 persons per sq. mi. (50 per sq. km). Distribution: 75 percent urban, 25 percent rural.
Major Ethnic/National Groups
Almost entirely Mexican. Most Mexicans are of mixed American Indian and Spanish ancestry; some are entirely Indian or entirely of European descent; a few have partly East Asian ancestry.
More than 90 percent Roman Catholic; some Protestants, Jews, and American Indian religions.
Agriculture - corn, beef cattle, milk, wheat, coffee.
Manufacturing - processed foods, motor vehicles, iron and steel.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas, iron ore.
Major exports - petroleum, motor vehicles and engines, coffee.
Major imports - industrial machinery, electric and electronic equipment, motor vehicles and parts.
Major trading partners - United States, Japan, Spain, Germany.
5550 miles from London
GMT -6 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Mexican New Peso (MXN)
16 September - Independence Day
Rio Lerma 71
06500 Mexico City
Telephone (00 52) (5) 2072089
Opening hours 0830 to 1530 Monday to Friday in winter, 0930 to 1630 in summer (local time)
3 vertical bands of green, white and red with a coat of arms centred in the white band. Mexico's flag, adopted in 1821, features a version of the country's coat of arms. The green stands for independence, white for religion, and red for union.
Coat of Arms
A legend says the Aztec Indians built their capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus and devouring a snake.
Federated States of Micronesia is a country in the North Pacific Ocean. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consists of 607 islands just north of the equator in the Caroline Island group. The total land area is only 271 square miles (702 square kilometres). But the islands are scattered across about 1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometres) of ocean. The United States gained control of the islands in 1945. Although the FSM is now an independent country, the United States is responsible for its defence.
Palikir, on the island of Pohnpei, is the nation's capital. The largest city is Weno in the state of Chuuk (formerly called the Truk Islands). The U.S. dollar serves as the basic unit of currency. The national anthem is "Patriots of Micronesia."
Government of the FSM is headed by a president. A 14-member Congress makes the laws. The people elect the Congress members, and the Congress selects the president. The FSM has four states. The states, named for the chief islands, are Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap. Each state elects its own governor and state congress. Village chiefs and traditional leaders play important roles in state governments.
About 135,000 people live in the FSM. About 100 of the 607 islands are inhabited. Most of the people are Carolinians, also known as Micronesians, but some have Polynesian ancestry. The official language is English, but local languages are commonly used. Almost all the people are Christians, but local religious beliefs are strong in some areas.
About three-fourths of the people live in rural areas, and about a fourth in urban areas. Traditional ways of life are changing rapidly as many Carolinians adopt U.S. customs. Many people, especially those in urban areas, depend on food, clothes, and other goods imported from the United States and other countries. Many houses in these areas are made of imported lumber, plywood, or concrete with metal roofing. A more traditional way of life continues in some areas. In these places, relatives live in large family groups and work together to supply food, shelter, and other necessities. They depend largely on fish and on native plants - such as coconuts, breadfruit, and yams - for food. Families build houses with thatched roofs and walls made from palm branches and local wood.
The FSM has two types of islands: (1) mountainous, volcanic islands and (2) ring-shaped coral islands or groups of islands called atolls. The soil on the volcanic islands is fertile. Mangrove swamps line the shores, and dense rain forests cover the valleys. The soil supports many crops. In contrast, the atolls generally have infertile soil and relatively little vegetation.
The climate is tropical with an average temperature of about 80 °F (27 °C). Average annual rainfall ranges from about 120 inches (302 centimetres) on Yap to over 300 inches (760 centimetres) on the mountains of Pohnpei. Typhoons are common, especially on the western islands.
Most people in the FSM make a living by fishing and farming. Yams, coconuts, and breadfruit are the chief crops. Except for the production of copra (dried coconut meat), the FSM has little manufacturing.
The first people to settle in present-day FSM probably came from Southeast Asia over 3,000 years ago. Spanish explorers of the 1500's became the first Europeans to arrive. Spain formally claimed the Caroline Islands in 1885 and sold them to Germany in 1899.
Japan gained control of the islands in World War I (1914-1918). The United States took them in 1945, at the end of World War II. In 1947, the United States began administering the islands as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1986, the United States granted independence to the FSM. Under a Compact of Free Association, the United States must provide the FSM with defence and economic assistance.
Midway Island lies 1,300 miles (2,090 kilometres) northwest of Honolulu in the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of two islands in an atoll 6 miles (10 kilometres) in diameter. It has an area of 2 square miles (5 square kilometres) and a total coastline of about 20 miles (32 kilometres). Midway has a population of about 470. The United States discovered Midway in 1859, and annexed it in 1867. United States companies built a cable relay station there in 1903, and an airport in 1935. The U.S. Navy Department controls the island.
The Battle of Midway was one of the main naval battles in World War II. From June 4 to June 6, 1942, U.S. land- and carrier-based planes attacked a Japanese fleet approaching the islands. They sank four aircraft carriers and one heavy cruiser. The United States lost the destroyer Hammann and the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
The Battle of Midway was the first decisive U.S. naval victory over the Japanese in World War II. It crippled Japan's naval air power and ended Japan's attempt to seize Midway as a base from which to strike Hawaii. Many military experts believe it was the turning point in the Pacific campaign.
Moldova is a country in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania on the west and by Ukraine on the other three sides. Chisinau is Moldova's largest city.
From 1940 to 1991, Moldova was a republic of the Soviet Union. It was called the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, or simply Moldavia. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the republic declared its independence and changed its name to Moldova.
Moldova belonged to Romania before it became part of the Soviet Union. Moldova has especially close ties with a region in eastern Romania that is still called Moldavia. For much of their history, Moldova and the Romanian region of Moldavia were united.
Republica Moldova (Republic of Moldova).
13,012 sq. mi. (33,700 sq. km).
north-south, 210 mi. (340 km);
east-west, 165 mi. (265 km).
Highest - Mount Balaneshty, 1,407 ft. (429 m).
Lowest - Dnestr River at southeastern border, 80 ft. (25 m).
Estimated 1996 population - 4,350,000; density, 334 persons per sq. mi. (129 per sq. km); distribution, 53 percent rural, 47 percent urban. 1989 census - 4,337,592. Estimated 2001 population - 4,350,000.
Agriculture - eggs, grain, grapes, milk, sugar beets.
Manufacturing - construction materials, refrigerators, tractors, washing machines.
"Desteapta-te, Romane" ("Romanian, Arise").
1330 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Moldovian Leu (MDL)
27 August 1991 - Independence Day
The British Ambassador resides in Bucharest, Romania
3 equal vertical bands of blue, yellow and red with a gold eagle carrying a yellow cross in its beak, a green olive branch in its right talons and a yellow sceptre in its left talons. Its breast carries a sheild with an ox head, star, rose, and crescent all in black.
Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world. It has an area of less than 1 square mile (2 square kilometres). Monaco lies on the French Riviera, which borders the Mediterranean Sea. France borders it on the other three sides.
Monaco is a popular tourist resort, with many luxury hotels, clubs, flower gardens, and places of entertainment. One of its chief attractions is the famous Monte Carlo gambling casino. Monaco is also known for such automobile sports events as the Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix.
The towns of Monaco and Monte Carlo sit on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Prince Rainier III rules from a castle, part of which was built in the 1200's. The citizens of Monaco are called Monegasques.
0.75 sq. mi. (1.95 sq. km).
Estimated 1996 population - 30,000; density, 40,000 persons per sq. mi. (15,384 persons per sq. km); distribution, 100 percent urban. 1990 census - 29,876. Estimated 2001 population - 31,000.
Basic unit - French franc.
Beer, chemicals, dairy products.
The flag has two horizontal stripes, red and white.
Mongolia is a country that lies between China and Russia in east-central Asia. It is a rugged land. Plateaus and towering mountain ranges cover much of the country. The bleak Gobi Desert blankets much of southeastern Mongolia. Temperatures are usually very cold or very hot. Mongolia's little rainfall occurs in a few summer storms.
Many Mongolians raise livestock for a living. But industry employs an increasing number of people.
Mongolia is the original home of an Asian people called Mongols. The Mongols built the largest land empire in history during the 1200's. They conquered an area from eastern Asia to eastern Europe. China ruled Mongolia from the 1680's to 1911. Mongolia was then called Outer Mongolia. A Mongol region to the south, called Inner Mongolia, is still part of China.
604,829 sq. mi. (1,566,500 sq. km).
east-west, 1,500 mi. (2,414 km);
north-south, 790 mi. (1,271 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 2,560,000; density, 4 persons per sq. mi. (2 per sq. km); distribution, 61 per cent urban, 39 per cent rural. 1989 census - 2,043,400. Estimated 2001 population - 2,896,000.
Basic unit - tughrik.
Agriculture - camels, cattle, goats, grain, horses, meat, milk, potatoes, sheep, vegetables.
Manufacturing and processing - building materials, felt, processed foods, soap, textiles.
Mining - coal, petroleum.
Vertical stripes of red, blue, and red, with gold symbols on the left stripe. The flag was adopted in 1992.
Montserrat is one of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies. It is a British dependency. It lies about 250 miles (402 kilometres) southeast of Puerto Rico (see WEST INDIES [map]). Montserrat has an area of 39 square miles (102 square kilometres). Montserrat has three groups of mountains. The highest group is the Soufriere Hills, which rise to about 3,000 feet (910 metres) in the southern part of the island.
Christopher Columbus reached Montserrat in 1493 and named the island after a mountain in Spain. Irish settlers came to Montserrat in 1632, and today many of the people speak with a brogue (Irish accent). Britain has controlled the island since 1783. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Montserrat, severely damaging most of its buildings. In 1995, a volcano in the Soufriere Hills began a series of eruptions. In 1996, the capital, Plymouth, was evacuated, and today the city is covered in rock and ash. Since 1995, thousands of Montserrat's people have been moved into temporary shelters in the northern part of the island or have been evacuated to neighbouring islands. Before the evacuations began, Montserrat had a population of about 13,000. Tourism was the chief economic activity.
Morocco is a country in the northwestern corner of Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Strait of Gibraltar, which connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, separates Morocco from Spain by only about 8 miles (13 kilometres). Fertile plains lie along Morocco's coasts, and forested mountains stretch across the middle of the country from southwest to northeast. Beyond the mountains lies a sun-baked desert, the Sahara. Casablanca is the largest city.
Nearly all Moroccans are of mixed Arab and Berber descent. But the people make up two distinct ethnic groups - Arab and Berber - depending mainly on whether they speak Arabic or Berber. Almost all Moroccans are Muslims. Farming is the chief occupation. France and Spain controlled Morocco from the early 1900's until it won independence in 1956.
Kingdom of Morocco.
172,414 sq. mi. (446,550 sq. km).
north-south, 565 mi. (910 km);
east-west, 730 mi. (1,170 km).
Coastline - 1,140 mi. (1,835 km).
Highest - Jebel Toubkal, 13,665 ft. (4,165 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 28,913,000; density, 168 persons per sq. mi. (65 per sq. km); distribution, 52 percent urban, 48 percent rural. 1982 census - 20,419,555. Estimated 2001 population - 32,391,000.
Agriculture - wheat, barley, corn, sugar beets, citrus fruits, potatoes, tomatoes.
Fishing - sardines, mackerel, tuna, anchovies.
Manufacturing - fertilisers, petroleum products, processed foods, textiles, leather goods, cement, chemicals.
Mining - phosphate rock.
1250 miles from London
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Moroccan Dirham (MAD)
30 July - Throne Day
17 Boulevard de la Tour Hassan
(BP 45) Rabat
Telephone (00 212) (37) 729696
Opening hours 0800 to 1630 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1300 Friday (local time)
Red with a green 5-pointed star in the centre
Mozambique is a country on the southeast coast of Africa. The country is noted for its many fine harbours. Its port facilities are used by some neighbouring countries. Maputo is the country's largest city and chief port. Mozambique was governed by Portugal from the early 1500's until 1975, when it became independent after a 10-year struggle against Portuguese rule.
Republica de Mocambique (Republic of Mozambique).
309,496 sq. mi. (801,590 sq. km).
1,556 mi. (2,504 km).
north-south, 1,100 mi. (1,770 km);
east-west, 680 mi. (1,094 km).
Highest - Mt. Binga, 7,992 ft. (2,436 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 6,923,000; density, 55 persons per sq. mi. (21 per sq. km); distribution, 66 percent rural, 34 percent urban. 1980 census - 12,117,000. Estimated 2001 population - 19,994,000.
Basic unit - metical.
Cashews, cassava, coconuts, cotton, shrimp, sugar cane.
The flag has three broad, horizontal stripes of green, black, and yellow separated by narrow white bands. To the left is a red triangle with a yellow star. The star holds a book with a hoe and a rifle crossed over it.
MYANMAR (formerly Burma)
Burma (Myanmar) is a country in Southeast Asia. It lies along the Bay of Bengal. Mountains border it on the west, north, and east. They enclose the Irrawaddy River Valley. The Irrawaddy River empties into the Bay of Bengal through many mouths, forming a delta. Rangoon, its largest city, lies on the delta.
The people are called Burmese. The great majority of them are Buddhists and live in villages on the delta and in the Irrawaddy Valley. They make a bare living farming the land.
People have lived in what is now Myanmar since prehistoric times. Several kingdoms arose and fell in Burma from the A.D. 1000's to the 1800's, when Britain conquered the country. Burma won its independence in 1948. In 1989, the government announced that it had changed the country's official name from Union of Burma to Union of Myanmar.
261,228 sq. mi. (676,578 sq. km).
north-south, 1,300 mi. (2,090 km);
east-west, 580 mi. (930 km).
1,650 mi. (2,655 km).
Highest - Hkakabo Razi, 19,296 ft. (5,881 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 47,502,000; density, 182 persons per sq. mi. (70 per sq. km); distribution, 74 percent rural, 26 percent urban. 1983 census - 35,307,913. Estimated 2001 population - 52,531,000.
Basic unit - kyat.
Agriculture - rice, vegetables and fruits, sugar cane, peanuts, sesame seeds, corn, wheat, millet, tobacco, jute, cotton, rubber.
Forestry - teak.
Manufacturing - fertiliser, processed foods.
Mining - coal, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, lead, tin, tungsten, silver, jade, rubies, sapphires.
"Kaba Makye" ("Our Free Homeland").
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