Yough Pioneer Tours

The Strange Tale of Bir Tawil

With our upcoming trip to Sudan and our Bir Tawil extension that follows it, people might be asking why we would want to drive for days to briefly see a bit of land in between Egypt and Sudan. But this is no normal empty bit of land – this is Bir Tawil!

Bir Tawil is the only truly unclaimed piece of land in the world; a tiny pinch of African land claimed by no one but eccentric micronationalists.

Being a piece of land no one wants in the middle of nowhere, it is rather hard to get here. One of the options is obviously to join our tour there, or alternatively hire some local guides and a 4X4. Bir Tawil is not easy to reach.

But as hard as it might be to get to, Bir Tawil’s status as the only true unclaimed land in the world has led many a person to make this journey. In 2014 the first recorded visit from someone wishing to “claim” Bir Tawil occurred when Jeremiah Heaton went there at the behest of his daughter, who had asked him if she could ever be a real princess. Short of her marrying a prince, Mr. Heaton felt this the next-best option, and upon arriving in Bir Tawil, planted a flag for the Kingdom of North Sudan.

For most normal thinkers Mr. Heaton’s now-famous endeavors were viewed as a bit of fun – and with the necessary pinch of salt – although (obviously) many accused him of neo-colonialism, and that other favorite of the latter-day guardian of vicarious offence: “cultural appropriation”. Personally, we see him as a genuine Pioneer!

Heaton also had genuine recourse for claiming the land: due to a historic anomaly, neither Sudan nor Egypt claim the land. The discrepancy arose because of two different maps drawn during the colonial era – one essentially in Egypt’s favour, and the other in Sudan’s. Whichever side claims Bir Tawil effectively loses their right to the much more lucrative Halai’b Triangle. Thus no one claims Bir Tawil, and it is, in effect, what is known as terra nullius, or “nobody’s land”.

Bir Tawil

One would therefore assume that now the Kingdom of North Sudan had been claimed, surely the UN would have been notified and all other claimants would go away, thus allowing the construction of great nation. Alas, trying to start a nation is simply not that easy, and the response of the UN, Egypt, and indeed Sudan has been muted at best.

Also no new idea ever goes unnoticed, nor without emulation, and there are at least 5 claimants to Bir Tawil, with some not even bothering to go there. The micronational world is indeed an interesting one!

And why, might you ask, would Young Pioneer Tours wish to drive for days on end to visit Bir Tawil, camp out and then drive for even more days whence we came? I’d say it’s that almost a case of “why do people climb Everest?” Because it’s there.

But a good second response would be when I first started to excitedly plan our tour to Bir Tawil and I met some resistance from some of my colleagues. One of my colleagues stated “this trip is only for travel geeks”. Yes, he had hit the nail on the head: Bir Tawil is indeed a trip for travel geeks, and YPT is a company by travel geeks and for travel geeks.

And it doesn’t get more geeky and off the beaten track than planting a flag in the world’s only unclaimed land.


Fancy founding your own nation? Let’s Buy an Island!