Bir Tawil – No man’s land

World & Nature

Bir Tawil is a 2,060 sqaure kilometres land area between Egypt and Sudan which is claimed by no country in the world. It is an uninhabited area with harsh climate.

The green area is claimed by both Egypt and Sudan whereas the white area is Bir Tawil, claimed by none. Because of this few people have travelled to the location and claimed their authority over the area.

In 1899, when the United Kingdom held authority in the area, the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium Agreement for Sudan set the border between the territories at the 22nd parallel. However, in 1902 the UK drew a separate “administrative boundary”, intended to reflect the actual use of the land by the tribes in the region. Bir Tawil was grazing land used by the Ababda tribe based near Aswan, and thus was placed under Egyptian administration from Cairo. Similarly, the Hala’ib Triangle to the northeast was placed under the British governor of Sudan, because its inhabitants were culturally closer to Khartoum.

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Egypt claims the original border from 1899, the 22nd parallel, which would place the Hala’ib Triangle within Egypt and the Bir Tawil area within Sudan. Sudan however claims the administrative border of 1902, which would put Hala’ib within Sudan, and Bir Tawil within Egypt. As a result, both states claim the Hala’ib Triangle and neither claims the much less valuable Bir Tawil area, which is only a tenth the size, and has no permanent settlements or access to the sea. There is no basis in international law for either Sudan or Egypt to claim both territories, and neither nation is willing to cede Hala’ib. With no third state claiming the neglected area, Bir Tawil is one of the few land areas of the world not claimed by any recognised state. Egypt arguably still administers the territory, but it is not marked as Egyptian on government maps.

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