If you have driven around the northern parts of the UAE, you will no doubt have noticed that you pass from one emirate into another and then suddenly back again or you may find yourself in an emirate you thought you were nowhere near.
UAE geography is clearly not straightforward. This goes back to territories owned by different ruling families before the birth of the UAE as well as gifts of land between the families and change of allegiance to rulers. And as in so many countries, there was also a British political officer involved in drafting territorial maps.
Ras al Khaimah has a northern and a southern region separated by a strip of Fujairah. Fujairah itself is separated by Sharjah. The emirate of Ajman has two enclaves, one inland, Manama, and one in the east, Masfoot, whilst Dubai has the enclave of Hatta in the east. To add to this, Oman has a few enclaves within the UAE.
Sharjah is probably the most interesting and most scattered emirate. The main part stretches from the city of Sharjah into the central region which includes Dhaid, Madam, Maleha and many other small towns and villages.
On the east coast, the small enclave of Dibba al Hisn is sandwiched between Dibba Fujairah and Dibba Oman. As you continue your journey down the east coast you chop and change between territories, starting in Oman (the enclave of Musandam) then passing through Sharjah (Dibba al Hisn) then Fujairah, then Sharjah again (Khor Fakkan) then Fujairah, then back to Sharjah ( Kalba) before finally going back to Oman. Dibba, Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Wadi al Helou (a mountainous region to the west of Kalba) are known as the Eastern Region.
The most fascinating of these must surely be the tiny enclave of Nahwa which is situated inside the Omani exclave of Madha. Madha is bordered by Sharjah (Khor Fakkan), Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah and has a population of around 3000. Apart from the area of new Madha, it is mountainous territory with numerous beautiful oases scattered through it.
Madha became part of Oman around 80 years ago when its people chose to align themselves with the Omani Sultan rather than the leaders of RAK, Fujairah or Sharjah as they believed at that time that Oman could help them more.
Nahwa covers an area of just 75km² and contains a tiny village made up of new Nahwa and old Nahwa. It consists of fewer than a hundred houses, a police station with a fire and ambulance service, a health centre, a primary school, a sports centre, a small play park, a grocery and several farms. It is governed and serviced by the municipality of Khor Fakkan.
If you haven’t visited any of these places yet, it’s time to get your map out and start exploring!