United Arab Emirates Enclaves: A Hybrid System of Tribal-Modern Boundaries

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Political enclaves and exclaves are a rare phenomenon in the Arab World. Yet, there are ten enclaves and exclaves only in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These geopolitical features are a result of tribal affiliations that exceeded territorial contiguity, and they manifest the amalgamation of traditional settings and modern political order. This paper examines the historical conditions that created the enclave phenomenon in the discussed region and maintained them in the modern UAE. This analysis includes a theoretical discussion of territorial and border concepts in Bedouin societies, in addition to a historical examination of border-making processes in this region. The paper also analyses three selected subnational-level exclaves through empirical surveys of geographical and socioeconomic factors and discusses their significance to their affiliated emirates. The study asserts that distinguished sociopolitical spaces were a common feature in the traditional tribal sphere. The border negotiation methods in this region were the main factor that enabled their preservation. It also argues that even though territorial enclaves are open to free movement, they manifest spatial segregation within small-scale spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalGeography Research Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Ben Gurion University of the Negev. All rights reserved.


  • United Arab Emirates
  • borders
  • enclaves
  • subnational-level exclaves
  • tribes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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