Ceará has an area of 148,016 square kilometres (57,149 sq mi). It is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba, on the south by Pernambuco state, and on the west by Piauí.
Ceará lies partly upon the northeast slope of the Brazilian Highlands, and partly upon the sandy coastal plain. Its surface is a succession of great terraces, facing north and northeast, formed by the denudation of the ancient sandstone plateau which once covered this part of the continent; the terraces are seamed by watercourses, and their valleys are broken by hills and ranges of highlands. The latter are the remains of the ancient plateau, capped with horizontal strata of sandstone, with a uniform altitude of 2,000 to 2,400 feet (610 to 730 m). The flat top of such a range is called a chapada or taboleira, and its width in places is from 32 to 56 miles (51 to 90 km). The boundary line with Piauí follows one of these ranges, the Serra de Ibiapaba, which unites with another range on the southern boundary of the state, known as the Serra do Araripe. Another range, or escarpment, crosses the state from east to west, but is broken into two principal divisions, each having several local names. These ranges are not continuous, the breaking down of the ancient plateau having been irregular and uneven.
The rivers of the state are small and, with one or two exceptions, become completely dry in the dry season. The largest is the Jaguaribe, which flows entirely across the state in a northeast direction.
Ceará has a varied environment, with mangroves, caatinga, jungle, scrubland and tropical forest. The higher ranges intercept considerable moisture from the prevailing trade winds, and their flanks and valleys are covered with a tropical forest which is typical of the region, gathering species from tropical forests, caatinga and cerrado. The less elevated areas of the plateaus are either thinly wooded or open campo. Most of the region at the lower altitudes is characterized by scrubby forests called caatingas, which is an endemic Brazilian vegetation. The sandy, coastal plain, with a width of 12 to 18 miles (19 to 29 km), is nearly bare of vegetation, although the coast has many enclaves of restingas (coastal forests) and mangroves.
The soil is, in general, thin and porous and does not retain moisture; consequently, the long dry season turns the country into a barren desert, relieved only by vegetation along the riverways and mountain ranges, and by the hardy, widely distributed Carnauba Palm (Copernicia cerifera), which in places forms groves of considerable extent. Some areas in the higher ranges of Serra da Ibiapaba, Serra do Araripe and others are more appropriate for agriculture, as their soil and vegetation are less affected by the dry seasons.
The beaches of the state is a major tourist attraction. Ceará has several famous beaches such as Canoa Quebrada, Jericoacoara, Morro Branco, Taíba and Flexeiras. The beaches are divided into two groups (in relation to the capital Fortaleza): Sunset Coast (Costa do Sol poente) and Sunrise Coast (Costa do Sol nascente).
The climate of Ceará is hot almost all year. The temperature in the state varies from 22 to 36 °C (72 to 97 °F). The coast is hot and humid, tempered by the cool trade winds; in the more elevated, semi-arid regions it is very hot and dry (often above 22 °C (72 °F), but seldom above 30 °C (86 °F)), although the nights are cool. In the higher ranges (Serra da Ibiapaba, Chapada do Araripe and several smaller highlands) the temperatures are cooler and vary from about 14 to 18 °C (57 to 64 °F). The record minimum temperature registered in Ceará was 8 °C (46 °F), recorded in Jardim, a small city in Chapada do Araripe.
The year is divided into a rainy and dry season, the rains beginning in January to March and lasting until June. The dry season, July to December, is sometimes broken by slight showers in September and October, but these are of slight importance. Sometimes the rains fail altogether, and then a drought (seca) ensues, causing famine and pestilence throughout the entire region. The most destructive droughts recorded in the 18th and 19th centuries were those of 1711, 1723, 1777–1778, 1790, 1825, 1844–1845, and 1877 to 1878, the last-mentioned (known by local people as a Grande Seca, "the Great Drought") destroying nearly all the livestock in the state, and causing the death through starvation and pestilence of nearly half a million people, or over half the population. Because of the constant risk of droughts, many dams (called açudes) have been built throughout Ceará, the largest of them the Açude Castanhão. Because of the dams, the Jaguaribe River no longer dries up completely.
The territory of Ceará was originally inhabited by different Indian peoples, such as the Tabajara, Potyguara, Anacés, Kariri, Inhamum, Jucá, Kanindé, Tremembé, Paicaú and others, who had commercial relations with various European people, including the French, before the Portuguese decided to include the area in Brazil.
The first Portuguese plan for settling in Ceará dated from 1534, but the first attempts to settle the territory failed, and the earliest Portuguese settlement was made near the mouth of the Ceará River in 1603, by Pero Coelho de Sousa. He established the fort of São Tiago, but one year later he and his family abandoned Ceará because of a period of drought, a natural phenomenon that periodically afflicts the province, which the Portuguese settlers were ill-equipped to endure.
Portugal wanted to form a military base in Ceará to support the Portuguese operations in the war against the French. The first attempt with Pero Coelho de Sousa, in 1603, was not successful, and the French continued operating from Maranhão and Ibiapaba, where they had established a base in 1590. The Indians and French formed political and military alliances. In 1607, two Jesuits, Francisco Pinto and Pereira Figueira, arrived in Ceará with a mission to spy in the area of Ibiapaba. In October, that year Franciso Pinto was killed by the Indians and Pereira Filgueira returned with more information about the area and the French and Indian alliance.
In 1612, the French were successfully expelled from Ceará and Maranhão by a military expedition under the command of Portuguese Martim Soares Moreno. In the same year he constructed the fortress of São Sebastião on the same site as São Tiago, and one year later his left Ceará for Portugal. It was only in 1618 that Martim Soares Moreno returned to Ceará, and it is from this time that the Portuguese presence dates. This was restricted at first to the area of the Ceará River: Martim Soares Moreno made an alliance with the Indians of the Potiguara tribe. In 1631, Martim Soares Moreno left Ceará to help the Portuguese against the Dutch in Pernambuco and the fort of São Sebastião lost its importance.
At this time, what is today Brazil was hotly disputed by the Dutch and the Portuguese. The area was invaded twice by the Dutch, in 1637 and in 1649. In 1637, the Dutch and the Indians took the Fort of São Sebastião and dominated Ceará. The Dutch expanded their presence in Ceará and made alliances with different Indian tribes. In 1639, Georg Marcgrave made an expedition in Ceará, but in 1644 the Indians attacked the Dutch Governor of Ceará, Gideon Morris, the Dutch soldiers were killed, and São Sebastião was destroyed.
There were no Europeans in the region between 1644 and 1649, but in 1649, before negotiations with the different Indian tribes, Matias Beck arrived in Ceará to explore silver mines of Maranguape. Good-quality silver was not found however. In this period the Dutch built another fort, by the banks of river Pajeú, and named it Fort Schoonenborch after one of their commanders. In 1654, the Dutch were expelled from Brazil; the Portuguese took Schoonenborch, changed its name to Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora de Assunção (The Fortress of Our Lady of the Assumption), and the different Indian tribes that had made alliance with the Dutch had to flee from Portuguese persecution.
In 1661, the Netherlands formally ceded their Brazilian territories to the Portuguese crown, ending conflict in the region. Ceará became a dependency of Pernambuco in 1680; this relationship lasted until 1799, when the Captaincy of Ceará was made independent.
The fight for Brazilian independence in 1822 was fierce in Ceará, with the area being a rebel stronghold that incurred vicious retribution from loyalists. The captaincy became a province in 1822 under Dom Pedro I. A revolution followed in 1824, the president of the province was deposed fifteen days after his arrival, and a republic was proclaimed. Internal dissensions immediately broke out, the new president was assassinated, and after a brief reign of terror the province resumed its allegiance to the empire.
Ceará became the first province of Brazil to abolish slavery, in March 25, 1884, more than four years before the national abolishment law, from 1888, passed by Princess Isabel.
The reign of Dom Pedro II (see Empire of Brazil) saw great advances in infrastructure in Ceará, with the commerce increasing by a large amount, and with gas lighting becoming almost ubiquitous.
The state of Ceará became a bishopric of the Roman Catholic Church in 1853, the bishop residing at Fortaleza.
Two railway lines running inland from the coast (the Baturité line from Fortaleza to Senador Pompeu, 179 miles (288 km), and the Sobral line from the port of Camocim to Ipu, 134 miles), were built by the national government after the drought of 1877–1878 to give work to the starving refugees, and were later operated under leases. Dams were also begun for irrigation purposes.
The population numbered 805,687 in 1890, and 849,127 in 1900. In 1900, approximately five-sixths of the population lived on estates, owned no property, paid no taxes, and derived few benefits from the social and political institutions about them. Education was then confined almost exclusively to the upper classes, from which came some of the most prominent men in Brazilian politics and literature.
In the early 20th century the sandy zone along the coast was nearly barren, but the more elevated region behind the coast with broken surfaces and sandy soil produced fruit and most tropical products when conditions were favourable. The natural vegetable production was important, and included manigoba or Ceará rubber, carnahuba wax and fibre, caju wine and ipecacuanha. The principal agricultural products were cotton, coffee, sugar, manioc and tropical fruits. The production of cotton increased largely with the development of cotton manufacture in Brazil.
The higher plateau was devoted almost exclusively to cattle raising, once the principal industry of the state, although recurring droughts created an obstacle to its profitable development. The state exported considerable amounts of cattle, hides and skins.
Since 1960, the Orós Dam, comparable in size to the Aswan Dam has supplied Ceará with much of its water, and in 1995 construction began on the enormous Castanhão Dam, completed in 2003, which is able to hold 6.5 km³ of water.
According to the IBGE of 2008, there were 8,472,000 people residing in the state. The population density was 55.2 inhabitants/km².
Urbanization: 76.4% (2006); Population growth: 1.7% (1991–2000); Houses: 2,181,000 (2006).
The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 5,370,000 Brown (Multiracial) people (63.39%), 2,800,000 White people (33.05%), 257,000 Black people (3.03%), 28,000 Asian people (0.33%), 12,000 Amerindian people (0.14%).
Vehicles: 1,084,991 (March/2007); Mobile phones: 3.5 million (April/2007); Telephones: 908 thousand (April/2007); Cities: 184 (2007).
The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 56.7%, followed by the industrial sector at 37.9%. Agriculture represents 5.4% of GDP (2004). Ceará exports: leather footwear 20.3%, crustaceans 17.6%, woven of cotton 16.9%, cashew 14.7%, leather 13.1%, fruits, juices and honey 5.4% (2002). It is one of only three Brazilian states which together produce the world's entire supply of carnauba wax.
Share of the Brazilian economy: 2,04% (2010).
According to the data from IPECE and IBGE, the GDP growth of the State of Ceará in 2014 was of 4.36%, while Brazil's overall GDP grew only 0.1% in the same year.
Traditionally an agriculture-based state, Ceará began an industrialisation program under the military regime (1964–1985), and the industrial sector continues to expand annually. In 1999, industry accounted for 39.3% of the state's GDP. Tourism also plays a large role in Ceará's economy, with the state's many waterfalls, beaches and rainforests. On average, Fortaleza alone receives half a million tourists annually.
There are more than 53 higher education institutions in the state of CearáUniversidade da Integração Internacional da Lusofonia Afro-Brasileira (UNILAB) (University of International Integration of the Afro-Brazilian Lusophony)
Universidade Federal do Ceará (UFC) (Federal University of Ceará);
Universidade Estadual do Ceará (UECE) (State University of Ceará);
Universidade Federal do Cariri (UFCA);
Faculdade 7 de Setembro (FA7);
Instituto Federal do Ceará (IFCE);
Universidade de Fortaleza (UNIFOR) (University of Fortaleza);
Universidade Estadual Vale do Acaraú (Uva) (University of Acaraú Valley);
Universidade Regional do Cariri (URCA) (Regional University of Cariri);
Fortaleza's international airport (Pinto Martins airport) is served by international flights from North and Central America as well as Europe.
The beach of Cumbuco, located in the municipality of Caucaia (neighbour to Fortaleza), is considered one of the best places in the world for the practicing of kitesurfing.
Jericoacoara National Park is a windswept region, with local fisherman mixing it with travellers keen to get off the beaten track - and provides a local relaxed atmosphere, incredible forro dancing and music and Capoeira with famous kite and windsurfing adventures, sand buggy tours to the stunning Lagoa Azul nearby, and interesting opportunities available including following the shamans path into the experiences of Ayahuasca - often viewed as one of the most effective tools of enlightenment.Guaramiranga Mountains
Canoa Quebrada Beach (in Aracati)
Praia Do Futuro
Jericoacoara Beach (profiled on E! Network's Wild On! series in 2000)
The Pinto Martins International Airport is situated in Fortaleza. The passenger terminal is air conditioned and has four levels. The basement level has parking for 1,000 cars as well as automatic teller machines and a stop for regular city buses. The ground level has 31 check-in counters, airline offices, car rental agencies, special tourist information, a juvenile court bureau to facilitate travel of minors, a National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) office, information counter, passenger arrival area and access to two taxi stops.
The second level contains shops, a food court and domestic and international boarding lounges. The top floor has a beer garden and panoramic deck overlooking the maneuvering apron with a view of the Fortaleza skyline. The apron is 152,857 square meters and can accommodate 14 aircraft at once in pre-established positions ("boxes").
The scheduled airlines operating out of Fortaleza are Cabo Verde Airlines, TAP, Delta Air Lines, Gol, TAM, Webjet, OceanAir and TAF. The airport also frequently receives domestic and international charter flights. The passenger terminal, opened in 1998, was designed to have a useful life of 50 years. The former terminal, called the General Aviation Terminal, is now used for general aviation and the fire brigade. The control tower is located alongside.
Construction of a cargo terminal is the next big step planned by Infraero. The new terminal will have roughly eight thousand square meters, boosting the cargo storage and handling capacity fourfold. Plans then call for the new terminal to be integrated with highway and railroad links.
Highways in Ceará include:BR-020
The Port of Fortaleza is located in the inlet of the Mucuripe and is a man-made port, including an oil platform. The quay stretches 1,054 meters. There are 6,000 square meters of warehouses and more than 100,000 square meters of dock for containers. There are still two wheat mills, interconnected to the railway system by an extensive maneuvering dock.
The Port of Pecem is the other big port facility in the state, located in the municipality of São Gonçalo do Amarante, about 60 kilometers from Fortaleza.
Fortaleza provides visitors and residents with various sport activities. The most popular sport there, as well as in the remainder of Brazil, is football (soccer). The Championship of Ceará has its main games in Fortaleza. There are several football clubs, such as Ceará SC, Fortaleza EC and Ferroviário AC. Strong winds make the Praia do Futuro an excellent place for nautical sports, and Fortaleza hosts world competitions of surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Fortaleza has produced high-level athletes in combat sports, as evidenced by several Fortalezans' success in mixed martial arts.
Fortaleza was one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The flag of Ceará is nearly identical to that of the federal Brazilian flag, the sole difference being the blue hemisphere in the Brazilian flag replaced by the Ceará state coat of arms.