Enclave of an Enclave

An enclave is a piece of land which is totally surrounded by a foreign territory. If another country has sovereignty over it, it is also called an exclave of that other country. Thus, they have the same meaning, but differ only in the perspective. Sound odd? They are much more common than most people think.

- Chirol, December 19th, 2005

Years ago, my learned colleague explained the many types of enclaves and exclaves that exist in the world in a five part series that covered Gambia, Belarus, Armenia, Cyprus, Belgium, and many more states, and concluded with an exhaustive explanation of the many different types of enclaves and exclaves. However, despite covering more than a dozen types of enclaves, the series did not cover the peculiar situation that exists in Madha and Nahwa — an enclave inside an enclave.

Madha is a tiny, landlocked circle of Omani territory situated in the eastern part of the United Arab Emirates. In that regard, it is similar to many of the enclaves of the world, and shows up on most maps as such. But what makes it particularly unique is that inside Madha is an enclave of the UAE, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah, called Nahwa. This enclave is so small that most maps don’t even note it, and you cannot see this border accurately on Google Maps or Nasa Worldwind.


It would be pretty easy for me to take a few hours and drive from Dubai into Madha and into Nahwa, but reading a traveler’s account of the journey, it doesn’t seem like it would be very interesting.

Why do these strange enclaves exist and what’s up with the peculiar border between the UAE and Oman? Why, what an excellent question — and very well put! Believe it or not, the border between the UAE and Oman is just the beginning — the borders of the northern emirates that constitute the UAE are an utter mess, with curious, curved borders, enclaves and exclaves, and some of the most curious borders you can imagine. I’ll be back with the reason for these borders, and the peculiar borders of the seven emirates, in a few days. You will see that Chirol was absolutely correct in saying that enclaves and excalves are more common than you might think.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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6 Responses to Enclave of an Enclave

  1. Peter says:

    Now wait, is it an enclave of an enclave, or an exclave of an enclave?

    And are you sure there aren’t further Matroska-like enclaves buried within Nahwa, like some street block that is actually territory of Qatar?

  2. Chirol says:

    Glad to see this series continued! Fascinating! I had no idea about these Gulf ones!

  3. dogbert says:

    It looks as though there is something else again inside Nahwa.

  4. Dexter Trask says:

    Dogbert: Indeed. A creamy noughat center.

  5. SJPONeill says:

    Why? Perhaps, more importantly, why not? It obviously works for both nations and (so far) has not kicked off any conflict let alone conflict on the scale created by the arbitrary pencil marks for British Imperial surveyors 100 or so years ago…

  6. Pingback: ComingAnarchy.com » The Bizarre Emirati Borders