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Announcing the Place of the Year 2013 Shortlist: Vote for your pick

In honor of Oxford’s 20th edition of the acclaimed Atlas of the World, we put together a longlist of 20 places around the globe for our yearly Place of the Year competition. The votes have been tallied, the geography committee has provided their essential input, and the shortlist nominees have been decided upon. We had a strong list of contenders this year, but five places stood out above the rest.

Last week we highlighted the reasons our nominees made the cut for the longlist. But, we wondered, what do we really know about the countries behind the locales that made the biggest impact on history this year?  We compiled some indispensable facts from the Atlas of the World to dazzle your family and friends with. Check them out below, and cast your vote!


  • Since 2011 Syria has been locked in a bitter civil war.
  • The country was ruled by France after the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in World War I.
  • The World Bank classifies Syria as a “lower-middle-income” developing country.
  • Main resources are oil, hydroelectricity, and fertile land.
  • The official language of the country is Arabic.

Tahrir Square, EGYPT

  • Egypt is Africa’s second most industrialized country after South Africa.
  • Oil and textiles are the country’s main exports.
  • Almost all of the population lives in the Nile Valley and its fertile delta or along the Suez Canal
  • The influence of the Arab occupation of Egypt back in AD 639-42 was so great that most Egyptians today regard themselves as Arabs.
  • From 1882-1922 Egypt was under British rule.
View of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay from Corcovado Mountain.

Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL

  • Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country.
  • The country is broken up into three main regions: the Amazon basin; the Northeast; and the Southeast Region, which is the most developed and densely populated of the three.
  • Agriculture employs 16% of the population with coffee being a leading export. Other products include bananas, citrus fruits, cocoa, maize, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane.
  • The leading religion in the country is Roman Catholic with 80% of the population practicing the faith.
  • In 2010, Dilma Rouseff  became Brazil’s  first female president.


  • Although only 0.7% of the population is employed in agriculture, the United States leads the world in farm production.
  • The United States is the world’s largest country in area with over 3.7 million square miles, and the third largest in population with over 313 million people.
  • California, with the high-tech electronics industries, is the top manufacturing state.
  • After the break-up of the Soviet Union it became the world’s only superpower.
Scenery from Ravnefjeldet, Nanortalik (Southernmost part of Greenland)
Scenery from Ravnefjeldet, Nanortalik (Southernmost part of Greenland)

Grand Canyon, GREENLAND

  • Greenland is the world’s largest island
  • An ice sheet covers four-fifths of the land, making settlements confined to the coast.
  • The population sits at only 58,000 people.
  • The country was a Danish possession from 1380 until becoming a self-governed territory in 2009.

What other interesting facts do you know about the countries behind the contenders for place of the year? Most importantly, who deserves the honor of Place of the Year 2013? The winner will be announced 2 December 2013, but until then keep checking back for further insight into the geography and politics of the POTY contenders.


Oxford’s Atlas of the World — the only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information — is the most authoritative resource on the market. The milestone Twentieth Edition is full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface, and the most up-to-date census information. The acclaimed resource is not only the best-selling volume of its size and price, but also the benchmark by which all other atlases are measured.

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Image Credit: (1) Photo of scenery from Ravnefjeldet, Nanortalik, Greenland by Jensbn. Made available by Creative Commons via Wikemedia Commons. (2) Photo of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay from Corcovado Mountain. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. […] year, your votes and our panel of experts and geographers agreed that Syria would beat out a packed shortlist – Greenland’s Grand Canyon, The NSA Data Center, Rio De Janeiro, and Tahrir Square, Egypt – […]

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