History and Culture of Guinea-Bissau. Guinea" was used by European explorers and traders to refer the coast of West Africa. Guinea-Bissau History and Culture Information and Travel Guide. Vacation package Book. It comes from an Arabic term meaning "the land of the blacks." "Bissau," the name of the capital, may be a corruption of "Bijago," the name of the ethnic group that inhabits the dozens of small islands along the coast. The combined name distinguishes the country from its southern neighbor, Guinea. Location and Geography: Guinea-Bissau, one of the smallest and poorest West African nation-states, is surrounded by former French colonies. Sharing a border to the north with Senegal and to the south with Guinea, it has a land area of 13,944 square miles (36,125 square kilometers). The terrain is generally flat and nearly at sea level, although there are hills in the southeastern region. Wide tidal estuaries surrounded by mangrove swamps penetrate forty miles into the interior, where coastal rain forest gives way to sparsely wooded savanna. Demography: In 1998, the population was at 1,206,311. The population is 76 percent rural, but almost 20 percent of the inhabitants live in the capital city. More than half the citizens were born after independence in 1974. Fula and Mandinga, who were traditionally politically centralized and make up the Moslem majority in the interior, account for roughly 30 percent of the population. Balanta, Manjaco, and Papel in the coastal and tidal zone constitute a sizable demographic majority.