It ain’t easy for a piece of land to remain entirely unclaimed, due to our species’ rapacious tendency to snap up anything we might be able to frack, mine, harvest or build property on. This is why it is so surprising, perhaps, that the desert territory of Bir Tawil, sandwiched between Egypt and Sudan, remains terra nullius, completely unclaimed by anybody.
Which is not to say that people haven’t tried…
Virginia father claims ‘Kingdom of North Sudan’ for daughter
There’s keeping it realistic and getting your kid a Barbie or a McDonald’s birthday party, and then there’s travelling thousands of miles to claim a barren, windswept region of sand and rock.
Which is exactly what Virginia father Jeremiah Heaton did in 2014. Flying to Egypt and then making a 14-hour caravan trek across the desert, Heaton planted a flag designed by his children (raising the question of why his son wasn’t also made royalty). Because this is the 21st century, he was immediately accused of racism for claiming a desolate region of Africa that absolutely nobody else in the world, not even local Bedouins, want.
The Kingdom of North Sudan has failed to establish an infrastructure, currency, military, police force or population, but does have a nifty website.
The Kingdom of Dixit declared with a watered seed and a Facebook post
What is it with micronations and their unrelenting preference for dynastic absolute monarchies? We may never know, but we do know that Indian man Suyash Dixit had no intention of reinventing the wheel when he made the journey to Bir Tawil to claim it as his own. Proclaiming the ‘Kingdom of Dixit’ in a Facebook post, Dixit brandished his flag in the region, planted and watered a seed, and called it good. Alas, the UN has yet to recognise Dixit’s bold and unconventional nation-building.
King Henry I issues history’s most low-effort proclamation
There are those who are prepared to travel to Bir Tawil before they declare the terra nullius theirs, and there are those who cannot even be bothered to do that and just write a blog post.
In 2010 someone calling himself (or herself?) King Henry I made a blog, declared that Bir Tawil was now the kingdom and Bir Tawil, and informed potential subjects that they could ‘apply for provisional citizenship in the comments’. The Kingdom also has a downloadable application form to apply for a fuller and more legitimate form of citizenship, but as of time of print was undownloadable, possibly due to the byzantine internal politics of the kingdom and its 14 citizens.
The Kingdom of the State of Bir Tawil fights a vicious civil war, separates into two nations
Not all micronational affairs pertaining to Bir Tawil have been entirely peaceful. The Kingdom of the State of Bir Tawil, established in 1996, initially had a unique dual-monarchy system and was co-ruled by King Adam I of the House of Cook and King Kieran I of the House of Binn.
Alas, Bir Tawil’s 800 square miles wasn’t big enough to accommodate two kings, and the country was plunged into a brutal civil war. Following what was presumably some really nasty Facebook messages, two nations arose from the conflict: West Bir Tawil is now an authoritarian dictatorship under the command of General Kieran Binn, whilst the Free State of East Bir Tawil is maintained by King Adam I.
The Grand Dukedom of Bir Tawil
Founded in 2010 and for some reason not called a ‘duchy’, the Grand Dukedom of Bir Tawil realised a very important fact: how can you be a nation if you don’t have your own coins and fridge magnets?
The Grand Dukedom proved that pretenders to the throne had nothing on their brass ‘pecunias’, and they made it super fancy by putting Latin on the obverse: “Pro Licentia quod Optimus” is the motto, which presumably means something about their being Transformers fans.
Despite their very fine limited-edition currency, the Grand Dukedom has yet to establish a physical presence in the region, something of a problem for Bir Tawil claimants in general. It’s almost as if they don’t want to actually live there.
No matter how many micronations have attempted to lay claim to Bir Tawil, none has managed to legitimise themselves, whether through recognition from Egypt, Sudan or the UN. But that could always change – these guys are planning on planting their flag, so why not stake your own claim to the region by travelling there with us on our Terra Nullius: Bir Tawil Excursion tour?