Bir Tawil, the African territory that no one wants

Virtually all the war conflicts that exist – and have existed, over the centuries – in the world are over territorial issues. Countries that disagree about the delimitation of borders with neighboring states and that put historical, geographical, cultural, religious issues on the table… to maintain that a portion of land is theirs. However, in the heart of Africa there is the unique case in the world of a small territory that not only is not in dispute, but that no one wants.

The enclave is called Bir Tawil and is – along with Antarctica – the only one on the planet that does not formally belong to anyone, it is considered in international treaties. no man’s land. Locating it in a good atlas is not difficult: it is located southeast of Lake Nasser, on the straight line that crosses the easternmost portion of the Sahara Desert and that separates Egypt of Sudan. But Egypt assures that that territory belongs to its neighbors. And Sudan is not like that but quite the opposite, which is from Egypt.

Bir Tawil, on the border between Egypt and Sudan

Bir Tawil, on the border between Egypt and Sudan

Third parties

The “conflict” dates back to the division of Africa by colonial powers. While Cairo recognizes the lines drawn in 1899 that take the 22nd parallel as the dividing line, Sudan accepts a modification made later, in 1902. There is no trick, both countries renounce that barren portion of land because in reality what They want to stay is the so-called Halaib Triangle, an interesting Red Sea port with oil reserves in the subsoil.

Bir Tawil has an area of ​​2,060 square kilometers (a little larger than the provinces of Gipuzkoa or Bizkaia), while Halaib is ten times larger and is located at the height of Jeddah, the second Saudi city, located on the other side of the Red Sea. . Again, consulting an atlas, the Halaib triangle is easy to locate, and in some it is marked as disputed territory, while no one wants poor Bir Tawil.

In 2014, an American who was aware of the legal situation of Bir Tawil made a trip there and took possession of the land.

Or it was like that until an American named Jeremiah Heaton decided to “conquer it.” In 2014, aware of the curious legal situation of Bir Tawil, he made a trip there and took possession of the land. Not as an act of selfishness, but as a gift for his seven-year-old daughter. In fact, he planted a blue flag with a golden crown and three stars proclaiming the kingdom of North Sudan and himself as king. It seems that the little girl had told her father that she wanted to be a princess. And good Jeremiah, without hesitation, made his dream come true. It is unknown what Emily, already in her teens, must think now.

As expected, neither Egypt nor Sudan reacted to the appropriation. Heaton, until anyone says otherwise, is the monarch of Bir Tawil and the water well after which it is named. However, the United Nations has not recognized the crazy American’s takeover.


To get to Bir Tawil you have to rent an all-terrain vehicle with a driver who knows the traps of the desert well. From the Aswan Dam (Egypt) there is a track that fades into the sand a few dozen kilometers further south, so you have to be a good navigator and carry everything you need to face the stay. From the Sudanese side it may be “simpler”. You can fly to Wadi Halfa airport and travel the remaining stretch, also with a 4×4, heading in a straight line towards the Red Sea coast.

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The post first appeared on www.lavanguardia.com

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