• With a land area of 147,000 square kilometres, Nepal is about the size of England and Wales combined. Useable land, however, is in short supply due to the precipitous terrain and a growing population of 27 million or more, over a third of which is less than 15 years old.
• Eight of the world’s ten highest mountains are found in Nepal, including Everest, the tallest of them all.
• Prior to 1951, only a handful of Westerners had ever been allowed into Nepal. Today, the country receives as many as 500,000 tourists annually; increasingly they are coming from neighbouring India and China.
• Despite the fame of its Tibetan and Sherpa Buddhist communities, Nepal was long the world’s only Hindu kingdom, and Hindus still officially make up some eighty percent of the population. In truth, many Nepalis combine worship of Hindu gods with shamanic and animist practices.
• The decade-long Maoist insurgency ended in 2006, along with the career of the notorious King Gyanendra. Nepal‘s politics are now noisily turbulent but peaceful.
• With an average per-capita annual income of US$470, Nepal ranked 157th out of 186 countries in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index. Half the population survives on little more than a dollar a day.
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