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SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE
Sao Tome and Principe, country of central Africa, located on the Equator in the Gulf of Guinea. It consists of two main islands—Sao Tome and Principe—and several rocky islets, including Rilas, south of Sao Tome island, and Caroio, Pedras, and Tinhosas, south of Principe.
Sao Tome, which is oval in shape, is larger than Principe, which lies about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of its sister island. The capital of the country, Sao Tome city, is situated in the northeastern part of Sao Tome island. The country’s closest neighbours are Gabon and Equatorial Guinea on the Atlantic coast of central Africa.
In the south and west of both islands, high volcanic mountains fall precipitously to the sea, although neither island has witnessed any volcanic activity in recent centuries. The mountains descend gradually to small plains in the northeast. Sao Tome Peak, the highest point on the main island, rises to 6,640 feet (2,024 metres) above sea level, and Principe Peak on the smaller island reaches 3,110 feet (948 metres). These mountainous areas are deeply dissected by stream erosion, and spectacular isolated volcanic plugs stand out as landmarks. Swift and rocky streams rush down to the coast in every direction.
The climate is basically maritime and tropical, but, because of the rough topography, there is a wide range of microclimates. The prevailing moist southwesterly winds are intercepted by the mountains, so annual rainfall exceeds 275 inches (7,000 mm) in the southwestern part of Sao Tome island, while the far northeast receives less than 30 inches (760 mm). The dry season, called gravana, lasts from June to September in the northeast but is scarcely discernible in the wetter regions. In the coastal areas the mean annual temperature is high, in the low 80s F (upper 20s C); the average relative humidity is also high, about 80 percent. Average temperatures decline sharply with elevation, and night temperatures fall below 50 °F (10 °C) at about 2,300 feet (700 metres). Above 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) fine misty rain falls almost continuously and the nights are cold, although frost and snow are unknown.
The population consists mainly of Forros (from forro, Portuguese for “free man”), descendants of immigrant Europeans and African slaves. Another group, the Angolares, descended from runaway Angolan slaves who were shipwrecked on Sao Tome about 1540. The Angolares remained apart in the isolated southern zone of Sao Tome island until the late 19th century, but they later spread throughout the country and became largely assimilated. Cape Verdeans form the largest group of resident foreigners; many have adopted Sao Tome an nationality. Angolans and Mozambicans make up most of the rest of the African immigrant community. Like the Cape Verdeans, they are relatively well integrated with the other islanders, because of a shared Luso-African cultural background. There is a small European population—primarily Portuguese—in the country.
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