Bir Tawil, One of the Last Few Places Not Claimed by any Country

“A desert landmass covered with sand and surrounded by mountains with no access to any road or the sea.” That’s the best description for Bir Tawil, one of the last few places on the planet that has not been claimed by any country. Many people have made online declarations claiming the place as their “kingdom,” but none of those declarations have been officially accepted.

Bir Tawil lies on the border between Egypt and Sudan. It is one of the last, few, remaining places on Earth that has not been claimed by any country or state. 

Bir Tawil
Bir Tawil on the map. Image Credit: Google Maps

Bir Tawil is an area of land located on the border of Egypt and Sudan. The place is also known as “Bi’r Tawīl,” which means “tall water well” in Egyptian. It is one of the last remaining places on the planet that has not yet been claimed by any country.

Even though Bir Tawil has a quadrilateral shape, it is generally referred to as the “Bir Tawil Triangle.” This is because it is associated with the Hala’ib Triangle that is located just next to it. Both the places together represent a triangle.

It is an area of 795 square miles and is primarily covered with sand and mountains. The land remains unclaimed because it is small in size, has no permanent settlements or access to the sea, and does not hold much value.  

Bir Tawil
Bir Tawil is covered with sand and mountains. Image Credit: Stan-D via Google Maps

Bir Tawil spans an area of 795 square miles (2,060 square kilometers). Its northern border is 95 kilometers (59 miles) in length, and the southern border is 46 kilometer (29 miles). The eastern and western borders are 26 kilometers (16 miles) and 49 kilometers (30 miles) respectively.

The landmass is surrounded by mountains to the north and the east. Towards the north lies the mountain Jabal Tawil with a height of 459 meters. Jebel Hagar ez Zarqa lies to the east with a height of 662 meters. In the south, lies the Wadi Tawil, also known as Khawr Abū Bard.

The land has not been claimed because of a dispute over the border between Egypt and Sudan. The actual fight is not to claim Bir Tawil but to claim Hala’ib Triangle that lies northeast of Bir Tawil. Hala’ib Triangle is more valuable than Bir Tawil, and both the countries are not willing to let it go. 

Bir Tawil
Bir Tawil. Image Credit: Google Maps

To better understand how Bir Tawil still remains unclaimed, one has to revisit the boundary dispute between Egypt and Sudan. The real fight is over the Hala’ib Triangle. In 1899, the area was under the rule of the United Kingdom. The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement was signed by Egypt and Britain which allowed for both countries to administer Sudan. The 22nd Parallel was designated as the boundary between Egypt and Sudan.

The problem with the original boundary was that it did not take into account the people living there. It was just an arbitrary line drawn to separate two countries. So, in 1902, the UK drew a new administrative boundary that took into consideration the land used by various tribes. This was done to ensure that the tribes wouldn’t be living in one country and grazing their cattle in another. Bir Tawil was used as a grazing ground although nobody lived there.

Problems started after the British rule considered the new administrative boundary as the right one, whereas Egypt believes in the earlier 22nd Parallel boundary.  According to the old border, Hala’ib Triangle lies in Egypt, but it lies in Sudan according to the new border. So, Bir Tawil is not claimed by any country while Hala’ib Triangle is being claimed by two countries. It’s quite clear why both the countries are fighting for the same landmass. Hala’ib Triangle is 10 times larger than Bir Tawil and has access to roads and the sea. Also, Hala’ib Triangle has 1,000 residents as opposed to barren and human-free Bir Tawil.

Even though Egypt and Sudan have not claimed Bir Tawil for a long time, this has not stopped other people from claiming this land as their own. Many have made online declarations regarding the ownership of Bir Tawil, but none of those declarations have been taken seriously.

Suyash Dixit, Dmitry Zhikharev, and Jeremiah Heaton
Suyash Dixit, Dmitry Zhikharev, and Jeremiah Heaton. Image Credit: Scroll.in

Countries may not be claiming Bir Tawil, but there are a few people who have declared themselves as the ruler of this landmass. An American, an Indian, and a Russian man have claimed their ownership of Bir Tawil. Heaton, an American, named Bir Tawil the “Kingdom of North Sudan,” and Dixit, an Indian, christened it as the “Kingdom of Dixit.” Zhikharev, a Russian, on the other hand, calls it the “Kingdom of Middle Earth.”

When Dixit claimed himself as the “King of Bir Tawil,” Heaton took to social media to bashed him publicly and called him a liar. As a result, the two of them talked privately and decided to work together for the betterment of Bir Tawil. Then, however, Zhikharev came into the picture and stated that both Heaton and Dixit faked their visits to Bir Tawil. This fight between the three men is still ongoing, even though their claims do not hold any official significance.
[source: 1, 2, 3]

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