Fun With Enclaves and Exclaves: United Arab Emirates and Oman

“N ever did I realize that that international borders carry so much complexity with them, and that traveling to a country isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.”

I had already planned on visiting an enclave and an exclave for what was then an upcoming trip when I read that quote from this article pertaining to the most complex international borders in the world as written by James Larounis of The Forward Cabin.

Before we continue, here are the definitions of an enclave and an exclave as defined by the Oxford Dictionaries:

Enclave

An enclave is a portion of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct.

Exclave

An exclave is a portion of territory of one state completely surrounded by territory of another or others, as viewed by the home territory.

Imagery ©2015 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2015 courtesy of Google Maps. Some labeling by Brian Cohen.

An exclave of Oman is outlined in red; while an enclave of the United Arab Emirates is outlined in green. Imagery ©2015 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2015 courtesy of Google Maps. Some labeling by Brian Cohen.

Oman and United Arab Emirates

Although there are others, the particular enclave and exclave at which I was eyeing my visit is where an exclave of Oman — a country I visited earlier this year — is also an enclave within the United Arab Emirates; but within that exclave of Oman is an exclave of the United Arab Emirates, which is also an enclave…

…which means that a portion — or counter-enclave — of the United Arab Emirates is located within a portion of Oman, which is located within the United Arab Emirates.

Huh?!?

I found this to be bizarrely interesting — so I decided to visit, as I was already scheduled to spend the night in Fujairah anyway.

Imagery ©2015 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2015 courtesy of Google Maps. Some labeling by Brian Cohen.

An exclave of Oman is outlined in red; while an enclave of the United Arab Emirates is outlined in green. Imagery ©2015 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2015 courtesy of Google Maps. Some labeling by Brian Cohen.

First, you need no passport, visa or other official documents to cross those particular borders; and there is no financial cost as well.

Second, the borders are not manned — other than a police station within the enclave and exclave of the United Arab Emirates, but no one is outside — so it is like crossing from one state into another within the United States.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is what greeted me as I crossed the border into the particular exclave of Oman which I was visiting. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I entered Madha, which is in this exclave of Oman.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Remembering the decorative streetlights which adorned the roads when I was in Oman earlier this year, I knew I was back in Oman when I saw more of them as I crossed the border into the exclave.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The decorative streetlights are an obvious indication that one has entered Oman. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I photographed both sides of the official marker of the inner border of this exclave of Oman and the enclave of the United Arab Emirates.

Photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The left is the marker as seen from the Oman side; while the right is the same marker as seen from the enclave of the United Arab Emirates within the exclave of Oman. Photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Shot from near the interior border of the exclave of Oman, the building houses law enforcement officers within the enclave of the United Arab Emirates. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The remainder of the photographs are simply in chronological order. The first two photographs were taken within the village of Nahwa, which is within the enclave of the United Arab Emirates.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Shot within the enclave of the United Arab Emirates, the inner border of the exclave of Oman is just beyond the bend in the road. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Construction and mining in Oman, where it appears that a new bridge is being built in the lower middle of the photograph. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

This is a miniature version of a decorative streetlight in this exclave of Oman, not far from its exterior border with the United Arab Emirates. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Before I knew it, I was back in the United Arab Emirates, ready to drive almost three hours to Abu Dhabi.

Summary

Enclaves and exclaves derive from some anomalies in the historical context of the establishment of the official borders of a country; but they sometimes are exempt from the typical rules — which can potentially be more interesting to visit.

In fact, I believe that the first enclave I visited was Lesotho, which is completely surrounded by South Africa.

In the specific case of Oman and the United Arab Emirates which I stated in this article, some people might read it and conclude “so what?”; while others — like me, for example — can be fascinated by their mere structure…

…and I was glad I visited — even if it served no other purpose than for me to say that I was there.

All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “Fun With Enclaves and Exclaves: United Arab Emirates and Oman”

  1. J. Grant says:

    Thanks for the writeup! Enjoyed reading it. Regret not going to Oman during my two super-long trips to the UAE.

  2. Ryan E says:

    Very interesting article, I learned something new today. Personally I enjoy quirky stuff like this, both reading about and visiting such places when I can!

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