Nahwa – Nahwa, United Arab Emirates - Atlas Obscura

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Nahwa, United Arab Emirates

A small United Arab Emirates territory within an Omani enclave within the United Arab Emirates. 


An enclave, as you may know, is a territory completely surrounded by the territory of another state, such as San Marino and Vatican City within Italy. There is also such a thing as a counter-enclave. It’s sort of like a Russian doll where there’s an enclave within an enclave. (It gets confusing fast.) Only two counter-enclaves (an-enclave-within-an-enclave) exist. One is the cluster of Dutch communities in the Belgian enclaves of Baarle-Hertog, and the other exists in the form of a village called Nahwa in the United Arab Emirates.

The village is located inside the Omani territory of Madha, an enclave inside the Emirate of Sharjah (part of the UAE). The unusual borders are said to have been created when the British, while exploring the Musandam Peninsula to map its borders in the early 20th century, came to Madha to ask its elders to which clan they pledged allegiance. While the tribe of Madha chose the Sultan of Oman as their leader, the minority in Nahwa remained loyal to the Qawasim clan of Sharjah (aka the UAE).

Today, the Nahwa territory consists of three villages: Old Nahwa, New Nahwa, and Shis. Old Nahwa was all but abandoned when New Nahwa was built, which has a school, a clinic, and forty or so houses. The village is known for its nature, particularly the pools of Wadi Shis. It maintains a sense of tranquility and serenity, as its inhabitants continue to live their lives, mostly unconcerned about the strange borders.

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May 4, 2023

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