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Flag of the Kingdom of North Sudan, one of the micronations that claims Bir Tawil
The location of Bi'r Tawīl, shown as the white area between the yellow and blue borders

Bi'r Tawīl is one of the few lands outside Antarctica that is officially Terra Nullius, neither belonging to nor claimed by any country. It lies between Egypt and Sudan in a trapezoid shape and has no residents.

Understand[edit]

Sudan and Egypt have been in a wider border dispute for over 50 years around the Hala'ib Triangle, and base their claims on historical maps that show Bi'r Tawīl as belonging to the other country.

The Bi'r Tawil Triangle is terra nullius—territory claimed by no nation. (This and the lack of amenities are about all it has in common with Marie Byrd Land in West Antarctica.) Any attempt to assert sovereignty by either country over Bi'r Tawīl would undermine their position in the main border dispute on the Hala'ib Triangle—this 2060 km² of landlocked desert therefore remains unclaimed by any recognized country. However, things might become more heated if mineral wealth was ever discovered here or close offshore.

There have been attempts by multiple individuals to establish a country in this area, but given the remoteness and inhospitable environment no permanent residents are to be found.

History[edit]

In the late 19th century Egypt and Sudan were nominally part of Turkey's Ottoman Empire, but in practice were puppet states of Britain. In 1899 the boundary between Egypt and Sudan was defined as 22° N, but in 1902 a different "administrative" boundary was drawn by the United Kingdom to reflect traditional land use by the local tribes. So the Beja tribe of Sudan was awarded lands north of 22° N, the larger triangle, while the Ababda tribe of Egypt was awarded lands to the south, the Bi'r Tawil Triangle. This hardly mattered until the 1950s as both nations remained under the thumb of Britain and there was little travel. But when Sudan became independent in 1956, it claimed the Halayib Triangle ie the 1902 border, while Egypt (independent under Nasser) hewed to the 1899 border and held onto it. There has been sporadic political acrimony about the situation ever since but no armed conflict or terrorist activity, and western governments do not warn against visiting.

Get in[edit]

Two countries border Bir Tawil; Sudan on the south and Egypt on the north. From both Egypt and Sudan, the best jumping-off points for accessing Bir Tawil is the Nile River region: in Egypt, Aswan is a good jumping-off point, and in Sudan, Abu Hamad is a good jumping-off point, being on a section of the Nile River that extends to the north towards Bir Tawil.

Entry requirements[edit]

There are no recent accounts of travel here, but it is understood that travelers (who will need to be very self-sufficient, including transport) may freely enter from either country, with no special permission. It is not known whether this terminates a single entry visa for Egypt or for Sudan, nor whether you can travel from one country to the other via this area.

By car[edit]

Bir Tawil is far from transportation hubs and major roads, making access difficult. The nearest airport and civilization is located in Abu Simbel, Egypt, approximately 164 km (102 mi) away from Bir Tawil. No major roads connect to Bi'r Tawīl, but there are tyre tracks that lead into the region, which would allow you to enter by pickup truck.

Get around[edit]

There are no established roads or trails in Bir Tawil, although traders leave behind what looks like "tyre tracks" which are visible on Google Earth.

See[edit]

There are several mountains and wadis in this area. As it is in the middle of a desert and far away from civilization you have a good chance of seeing more stars than in, perhaps, downtown New York City.

Flags are surprisingly a common sight in Bir Tawil because so many people put flags on the territory to claim it for themselves.

  • 1 Jabal Tawil. A mountain in Bir Tawil that stands at more than 2,000 ft (610 m)

Do[edit]

For the most part you can do pretty much whatever you want. After all, you are under no jurisdiction and you are a long way from any civilization, although laws in other countries can potentially apply to acts committed here, especially if you accidentally cross the border into either Sudan or Egypt, which can easily happen as the border is not marked in any way.

Eat[edit]

Food should be brought in, as there is nothing to buy and hardly any edible plants or animals in Bi'r Tawīl.

Drink[edit]

Likewise, make sure to bring plenty of water, as this is a desert. There is no easy access to water on Bir Tawil, so bringing your own is a must.

Sleep[edit]

As there are no cities or permanent settlements of any kind, a tent will be useful for sleeping in.

Cope[edit]

A geolocator is always good to have, and so is a satellite phone in case of any emergencies, but be prepared to wait up to 76 hr for rescue, as the village nearest to you might be a bit far away. Bring supplies; the necessities are listed in the "Eat" and "Drink" section. it is also smart to bring with you a water collector and a solar panel with a suitable power plug, as getting stranded in the desert is not good. Another thing to bring is survivalist equipment and clothes, and of course sun cream, 40+ degrees recommended.

Stay safe[edit]

Learn desert safety. For obvious reasons you shouldn't rely on any kind of government entity to provide you with safety or help in case of any kind of emergency.

Go next[edit]

  • The surrounding countries of Egypt and Sudan.
  • To the northeast, the Hala'ib Triangle is claimed by both countries as part of the same territorial dispute. It's larger in area and has access to the sea.


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