Before entering Bir Tawil we picked up our local guide, a member of the Ababda tribe, and officially at least our fixer. We then headed north from Abu Hamed and into the unknown.
Our guide was a member of the Ababda tribe, a people we were to meet in greater numbers, and learn a lot about their feelings towards Bir Tawil.
First though, let’s start with who the Abanda are. The Ababda people are nomads that live and traverse the southern part of Egypt, and the northern part of Sudan, back before the British drew an arbitrary line. They call themselves the “sons of the Jinns” and have populated the area since the time of the Romans , and are famous for guiding people through the Nubian Desert. They also as we were to discover claim Bir Tawil as their own. .
Bir Tawil of course is famous as being unclaimed. A “fact” that is partly right, and partly wrong. Officially though, neither Egypt or Sudan want Bir Tawil. The reality on the ground though is that it more than falls under the Sudanese sphere of influence (we learned this first hand). In fact many Ababda are located in the town of Abu Hamed in northern Sudan.
Now to Bir Tawil, Sudan and Egypt might not fancy it, but enterprising chaps from America, Belgium, and even India have laid claim to the place. The problem? The local population do not agree.
In fact, as we were later to learn, not only do the Ababda think it’s theirs, but they have very much set up camp here.
We were to find out after our trip that they call the land the Ababda Emiratí, with an Emir, and are kinda just out in the desert doing their thing.
Therefore, whilst you can’t go out there and just claim the land, you can visit an unrecognised country, the aforementioned Ababda Emirate. It’s probably about halfway between Sealand and Transnistria as legit countries go, but who knows what the future holds for these nomad people.
It might not officially exist, but the locals at least are quite attached to the place…