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Wedged between the borders of Egypt and Sudan is a small parcel of land that is truly unique in this world. It is one of the last unclaimed land on earth. Neither country wants it, and it is easy to see why. This 2,000-square-kilometer trapezoidal piece of land called Bir Tawil lies in one of the most desolate regions of North Africa. The region is mostly sand and rock, with no roads or permanent inhabitants or natural resources. Claiming this region would contribute nothing to either country’s economy. But that’s only half the story.

Lying adjacent to Bir Tawil is another much larger triangle of land—Hala'ib—which is also sand and rock, but it borders the Red Sea and is hence more valuable. Now both Egypt and Sudan want Hala'ib, but the way the border was created between them, each country can have either Bir Tawil or Hala'ib, but not both. Whoever claims Bir Tawil thus would have to relinquish their claim to the larger and more lucrative Hala’ib Triangle, which neither country wants to lose.

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