At Young Pioneer Tours we are always looking to push the boundaries of established tourism by trying to get as off the beaten track as possible. This is what led us to Bir Tawil…
If you have never heard of Bir Tawil, read this blog, but to give the very quick lowdown, Bir Tawil is a slice of land in between Egypt and Sudan that is TECHNICALLY terra nullius, which literally means “no one’s land”. I’ll explain more about that later, but in theory anyone can “claim” it. The reality of course is somewhat different. We decided it would be a great place to take some adventuring Pioneers!
The group initially met in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, from where we headed up north to meet the group who had just finished the regular Sudan tour. From there we headed to Meroe to camp, and as we were there look at some pyramids. Seeing pyramids in Sudan is VERY different from doing it in Egypt. There is almost no tourist infrastructure, and Sudanese pyramids really are an untouched gem in the rough.
Camping in the desert is also a lot of fun, and alarmingly comfortable. Our expert local team cooked us up a feast every night, and the temperature dropped enough to make sleeping outside very comfortable. If nothing else the lack of light pollution made looking at the stars amazing enough to justify the whole trip.
But, of course, we were here to do much more than merely see pyramids, and camp, we were here to see Bir Tawil.
We carried on the journey north, camping once more, and stopping in a place we called “Mad Max Town”, the last main settlement before Bir Tawil. This is gold mining country, and at times comes across a little bit Star Wars! All great fun thus far!
We eventually hit the unmanned “border” of Sudan and Bir Tawil in time for sunset. Despite many micronations such as the “kingdom of North Sudan” claiming Bir Tawil, there was a surprising lack of non-Sudanese there.
Camping in no-man’s land was indeed amazing, as was waking up to a perfect sunrise. Now it was time to explore Bir Tawil.
We checked out a mine, then explored a place called Wadi Tawil, which is a lake during the rainy season, before meeting some locals from the Ababda tribe, who “invited” us back to their settlement. The day was spent in the “capital” of Bir Tawil, which let’s just call Bir Tawil Town (like San Marino).
Despite what Wikipedia says there is a population and indeed a small town in Bir Tawil fit with shops, satellite phones, and restaurants, all run by the aforementioned Ababda tribe.
We spent a second-night camping in Bir Tawil hanging out with the tribe, being educated to their actual reality. Interestingly I was asked if I was “King Heaton”, as they discussed a silly person that had come in 2014 and put nonsense online. But we happily assured them we came in peace, not to try and claim Bir Tawil. They were happy with that.
We then took a slow stroll back to Khartoum, from where we had a great last night’s dinner in the best restaurant in town, the Gaddafi Egg.
This is very much an abridged version of how our tour was, you really had to be there to understand just what an epic trip it was.
Will we go back to Bir Tawil? I certainly hope so, but should we do, it will be with the blessing of the locals that live there, not from imaginary countries.
Join us in 2020 for our next Sudan tour, or if you would like more info about Bir Tawil check out the following guide (birtawil.net).
The truth really is stranger than fiction!