Eight of the world’s ten highest mountains can be found in Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains. Most notably, Mount Everest is the highest point above sea level in the world at 8850 meters (29,035 ft.). From its mountainous northern border with Tibet (China), Nepal’s topography falls to near sea level at its southern border with India on the Ganges River plain. Most of the over 36 ethnic groups in this South Asian country live in the central hill area and in the flatter and arid lowlands in the south. Nepal’s Sherpa guides of the Himalayas and the Gurkha military regiments are peoples recognized internationally for their skill and bravery.
Isolation and a long-ruling monarchy have contributed to Nepal being one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is estimated that 25% to 40% of the Nepalese people live below the poverty line. Most of Nepal’s people are subsistence farmers where geographic, environmental, and political factors have impacted the growth of agriculture as well as industry. Nepal ended its long line of monarchies by becoming a republic in 2008, yet political instability, civil strife, and labor problems continue.
As the world’s last remaining Hindu kingdom, over 71% of the Nepalese people are Hindu. Buddhists comprise approximately sixteen percent of the population. Religious freedom is legal under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups. Christian believers are at risk for fines and even imprisonment for proselytizing. Though the percentage of Christians in Nepal is small, the number of believers is growing.
Capital City: Kathmandu
Government: Federal Democratic Republic
Major People Groups: 79% Indo-Aryan, 17% Tibeto-Burman
Religion: 71% Hindu, 16% Buddhist, 5% Muslim, 1% Christian
GDP Per Capita: $1,500
Literacy Rate: 48.6%