The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is an Asian country situated in the Middle East region. With an area covering about 0.217 million square miles and a land border spanning 620 miles in length, the UAE is among the smallest countries in the region. The UAE shares a border with three countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar. The longest border is the Saudi Arabia-UAE border which spans 329 miles in length while the Qatar-UAE border is the shortest, stretching only 19 miles long. However, the border between Qatar and the UAE is yet to be well defined, with some quarters in the UAE even disregarding the existence of this land border. The country has an exclave known as Nahwa which is situated inside Omani territory. The UAE’s international border is disputed on numerous sections particularly along its border with Saudi Arabia. A controversial feature found on the border is the Oman-UAE border barrier, a border fence built along the UAE-Oman border to curb illegal cross-border activities.
The UAE is bound to the south by Saudi Arabia. The land border separating the two countries is 329 miles in length, making it the UAE’s longest international border. The border stretches between the Persian Gulf and the UAE-Oman-Saudi Arabia tripoint. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have a border dispute that has lasted for numerous decades. The dispute revolves around the demarcation of the border on a region that sits on immense oil deposits. The history of border dispute goes back to the early 20th Century after oil was discovered in Arabia. The two countries attempted to end the border dispute after signing the Treaty of Jeddah. While Saudi Arabia ratified the treaty, the UAE declined to have it ratified and, therefore, disregarded the agreements stipulated in the treaty and in so doing, prevented the treaty from being binding on both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. While the dispute has never escalated to an armed conflict pitting the two countries against each other, it has resulted in diplomatic tensions between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Recent maps of the UAE put the disputed area as part of the UAE, a move that has angered Saudi Arabia.
The UAE is bound to the east by Oman, a country with which it shares a land border. The Oman-UAE border starts at the tripoint connecting the two countries to Saudi Arabia, from where it extends for 280 miles until ending at the Gulf of Oman. The two countries share an interesting feature that, while is not unique, is still worth noting. Oman has an exclave found inside UAE territory known as Madha, and inside Madha lies another exclave (counter-enclave) known as Nahwa which is part of the UAE. There was a time when the border also passed through the Emirati-Omani condominium, a region whose sovereignty was shared by the two countries.
The United Arab Emirates surrounds a section of Oman’s territory known as Madha. Covering an area of 29 square miles, the enclave is home to an estimated 3,000 inhabitants. Most of the exclave’s territory is remote and devoid of human settlement. The bulk of the population is concentrated in the urban part of the exclave known as "New Madha" which has many of social amenities found in Oman including an Omani Bank. Madha lies within the UAE’s Emirate of Sharjah but is governed as part of Oman’s Governorate of Musandam. Security of the exclave is provided by the Royal Oman Police which has a police station in Madha. The Omani exclave surrounds yet another exclave which is part of the United Arab Emirates’ territory known as Nahwa.
Madha is a part of Oman’s territory surrounded by the UAE, which in turn surrounds part of the UAE or another enclave known as Nahwa. The exclave is governed as part of the Emirate of Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates. Nahwa is small, covering an area of 2.03 square miles and is made up of three parts; Nahwa, New Nahwa, and Shis. Travelers aiming to reach Nahwa are required to go through Omani territory in New Madha from where a paved road leads to Nahwa. A boundary marker informs when one is about to enter Nahwa and is patrolled by Emirati police. The Emirati police, who are in charge of security of the exclave, have a police station which lies several feet from the boundary marker.
According to international law, a condominium is a region whose sovereignty is shared by more than one country. Oman and the UAE once had such an agreement over a section of land surrounding Hadf. The agreement was signed by the two nations in 1960 and saw the Emirati of Ajman jointly administer the region with Oman. The condominium’s existence was, however, short-lived as the two countries later disregarded the agreement.
The Oman-UAE Border Barrier
Cross-border movement on the Oman-UAE border is restricted after the erection of a border barrier which spans the length of the border. The barrier features a barbed wire fence. The UAE government financed construction of the border barrier. UAE pointed out that the border barrier was aimed at curbing the rising illegal cross-border activities including smugglings, infiltration of terrorist elements and illegal immigrants on the border. The construction of the barrier was met with bitter criticism from across the globe. Opponents of the barrier’s construction stated that the barrier served to cut off historical ties shared by communities who had been living along the border for centuries. Oman’s town of Buraimi and Al Ain in the UAE were pointed as examples of border towns which shared social and cultural ties. The border barrier cut off links between these two border towns.
Territorial Dispute with Iran
Despite not sharing a land border, Iran and the UAE have a long-running territorial dispute over two islands in the Persian Gulf. These two islands, the Tunb el-Sughra, and the Tunb en-Kubra, were allocated to Iran by the British Empire in the 20th Century and Iran has governed the two as part of its territory ever since. However, the UAE also claims sovereignty over the islands as part of the Emirati of Ras al-Khaimah.