Maps, cracks & geographical imaginations: The Princess of No-Man’s Land

A couple of days ago, while driving home from the train station, my attention was grabbed by two words – a name – broadcast over the car radio courtesy of BBC Radio 5 Live. This wasn’t the name of a person, but of a place that has long interested me, and which, at least in part, inspired me a few years ago to begin thinking about contemporary No Man’s Lands. It is certainly not a name one commonly hears on national radio within the UK, an absence that made its on air occurrence all the more intriguing.

The name in question is Bir Tawil – Arabic for ‘tall well’ – an 800 square mile trapezoid-shaped tract of land wedged in between the southern borders of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the northern border of the Republic of the Sudan.

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Contours of No Man’s Land in the Cyprus Buffer Zone

For almost forty years, the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean has been bisected by a ribbon of land, patrolled and administered by the United Nations, which seeks to spatially separate the militaries of the Republic of Cyprus and the self-styled Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.

Created in 1974 as a physical means of “preserving international peace and security” (under UN Security Council resolution 186), the Buffer Zone stretches more than 110 miles – from the western village of Kato Pyrgos to the ‘ghost city’ of Famagusta on the east coast – and occupies more than 130 square miles of land, more than 3.5% of the island’s surface. Continue reading