East Timor, or Timor-Leste, is a country located in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands, an Indonesian archipelago located between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is a very popular destination for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts. The capital Dili is also the country’s largest city.
Enjoy reading these facts about Timor-Leste.
1. Timor-Leste’s people come from Australia
Because of the country’s proximity to Indonesia, many suspect that the people of Timor-Leste come from this territory. However, they are descended from the aboriginal people of Australia.
Timor-Leste was colonized by the Portuguese in 1520. In 1613, the Dutch claimed many of the surrounding islands and took control of the western portion of the territory. These two nations fought over the island until it was divided between the two of them. Portugal was granted the eastern half and the Netherlands the western half, an interesting fact about Timor-Leste.
Japan and Australia were also interested in this place and fought each other during World War II for it. This caused 50,000 East Timorese to die after the Japanese took over. The Netherlands gave up West Timor in 1949 and East Timor remained under the control of the Portuguese until 1975.
2. The Portuguese left the country abruptly after 455 years of colonization
After 455 of colonization, in 1975, the Portuguese left East Timor abruptly, leaving the island vulnerable. On July 16, 1976, the island was declared an independent nation and named the Democratic Republic of East Timor. However, nine days later, Indonesia invaded it and annexed it. This caused the United States and other western countries to sanction Indonesia.
3. They used to be called “East-East”
The country’s name used to be East Timor, before changing to Timor-Leste. Timor is in fact, a word of both Portuguese and Indonesian origins and it means “east”. Therefore, the country used to be called “East-East”. There is no “West Timor”.
4. Archaeological finds on Timor-Leste are dated to 30,000 years ago
There is a large cave on the island of Timor-Leste called Lena Hara. There, scientists found beads and fishhooks that were dated to 30,000 years ago using radiocarbon tests. In addition, there are carved faces on the walls that are dated back 10,000 years and paintings that are believed to be up to 6,000 years old.
5. East Timor has a mountainous territory
Timor-Leste is a mountainous country. Its highest mountain is Mount Ramelau and measures up to 2,986 meters or 9,797 feet above sea level. Mount Tatamailau is in the center of a high plateau and rises up to 2,963 meters or 9,721 feet. The country’s climate is tropical and the rainfall is moderate.
6. More than 40 dialects are spoken
The country has two official languages, which are Portuguese and Tetum. However, only a small fraction of the population speaks Portuguese. Indonesian and English are also used but they are considered to be languages for a working environment.
In addition, more than 40 different dialects of Papuan and Malayan origins are spoken, an interesting Timor-Leste fact.
7. The most important component of the economy is hydrocarbon production
In terms of value, hydrocarbon production is the most important component of the country’s economy, a fun fact about East Timor. The production comes from offshore natural gas deposits. Also, Timor-Leste exports marble and produce different agricultural products. Some of them are corn, cassava, rice, dried beans, sweet potatoes, coffee and coconuts.
Among other important activities that contribute to the country’s economy are textiles, handicrafts and processed coffee. Timor-Leste has a large production of crafts that include pottery, woodwork, plaiting, ivory carving, basket-making and more.
8. In 2002, they had their first President
After the Indonesian occupation, around 200,000 people died in East Timor from famine and disease. On August 30, 1999, the government of Indonesia authorized a referendum to determine the future of this territory. Almost four-fifths of the people who participated were in favor of independence.
Finally, after violent events that accompanied the transfer of power, the leader of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, Xanana Gusmão, was elected as East Timor’s first President in April 2002.
9. Nino Knois Santana National Park is the country’s only national park
The first and only national park in Timor-Leste is Nino Konis Santana National Park. It was established on August 3, 2007, and it covers an area of 1,236 square kilometers or 477 square miles. This park includes 556 square kilometers of the Coral Triangle and important bird areas as well.
10. One of the main tourist attractions in Timor-Leste is Cristo Rei of Dili
A statue called Cristo Rei of Dili is one of the country’s main tourist attractions. It consists of a 27-meter-high statue of Jesus standing on a globe. It was designed by Mochamad Syailillah and was unveiled in 1996 by Suharto as a gift from the Indonesian government.
11. Two East Timorese activists received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996
In 1996, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to two East Timorese activists. These were Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta. They were recognized for their work in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country, a fun fact about Timor-Leste.
12. Poverty remains high in Timor-Leste
Poverty levels in Timor-Leste are very high, according to the World Bank. However, progress is constantly being done to improve the population’s living standards. In 2014, the proportion of East Timorese living in poverty declined from 50% in 2007 to 42%.
Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries on Earth. After many years of violence and fighting for independence, in 2002 they finally became an independent nation. It is a very popular place for tourism and nature-lovers. Today, 1.3 million inhabitants enjoy a peaceful life as the country continues to progress.
I hope that this article on East Timor facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!