The Geopolitical Babushka Doll

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Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Babushka dolls, also called matryoshka dolls or Russian nesting dolls, are, as Wikipedia states, "a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other." You have almost certainly seen them but, if not, this picture or this picture may help.

Fly over to the Middle East, and you'll find a somewhat ridiculous, real-life geopolitical babushka doll. Start off in the United Arab Emirates, traveling east toward the Gulf of Oman. Before you reach the shore, you'll come to Madha, the small green oval in the map shown below. (Need a bigger map? Click here.) Madha is an enclave which, while surrounded on all sides by the UAE, is part of Oman.

Once you enter Madha, continue toward its center. You'll come to a smaller, yellow oval (the bigger map will come in handy here) called Nahwa. Nahwa is an enclave that, while surrounded on all sides by Madha, is part of the UAE. Quite literally, a part of UAE is completely surrounded by part of Oman, which in turn is completely surrounded by UAE proper.

The geographical borders are relatively new—they were set forth in 1969. So there isn't a long-standing historical reason for the delineation. Even stranger? While Nahwa has a few dozen buildings, Madha is almost entirely uninhabited, making its distinction and size generally irrelevant to everyday life.

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January 10, 2012 - 6:49pm
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