Bir Tawil has to be one of the most unique pieces of land in the world today. The land is so unique because not one single country that borders Bir Tawil claims it. Surely there must be something wrong with the land if no one wants it? But to the best of our knowledge there’s actually nothing at all wrong with it. So why doesn’t anyone want it and why is it still unclaimed by even the bordering countries? We can probably best say that it is a bit of a misunderstanding.
Nations laying claims to land is a custom that has probably been taking place since the first human descended from the trees, maybe even before then. Land of all description, from baron deserts to inhospitable mountain tops are of interest to countries and governments of all persuasions, even if it is of no real value. So why doesn’t anyone want Bir Tawil? The small section of Africa must feel like an unwanted piece of leftover dinner that not even the family pet wants to devour.
Bir Tawil is a small piece of land situated in North Africa between Sudan in the south and Egypt in the north. Although it’s often referred to as a triangle, it’s actually quadrilateral in shape and is 2,060 square kilometers in size. So it’s not all that small and a good deal of people would love to own a section of property that size. But despite this, neither Sudan of Egypt claim it because of differing opinions on where the border lies.
Back in 1899, the imperial British decided to redraw the maps of the region, as they could do as they were the ultimate world power at the time. When they decided to carve up the land they set the border between Sudan and Egypt at the 22nd parallel. That really should have been the end of the story, but only three years later it was going to be thrown into utter disarray.
In 1902 a different administrative boundary was drawn above the 22nd parallel, and this placed a small triangle of land into Sudan’s territory. This second redrawing of the borders also crated another triangle of land, the Hala’ib Triangle that was given to Egypt, but both countries claim. This second border was created to more closely reflect the tribal uses of the land at the time.
As Egypt recognizes the border that was created in 1899 it doesn’t believe it has responsibility over Bir Tawil. As Sudan recognizes the border as it was drafted in 1902 it doesn’t recognize its claim to the same portion of land, leaving it as a piece of no mans land even to this day.
But can you claim Bir Tawil? As the land is technically unclaimed territory, and there is no legal precedent in international law for such a situation, it’s unlikely that you could claim it for yourself. Even if you were successful with a claim, its location, being completely land locked by both bordering countries would render any claim fruitless. However, it did happen in 2014.
In 2014, Jeremiah Heaton, a man from Abingdon, Virginia made a trip to the unwanted land to plant his own flag on its soil. He actually made a claim of the territory just so his daughter could be a real life princess. But he has had some trouble gaining recognition to his claim from the neighboring countries.
But I will now be just a little cynical. As no nation on this planet wants this small piece of land as it is really only farming land, and small in relative size, I wonder if the situation would be different if a well of oil was discovered beneath the surface?