Isolation on a microscale

micronations & places you'll probably never go

South of Musandam lies the curious Omani exclave of Madha (Google Maps) – a tiny dot of Omani territory (comprising just 75 square kilometres) completely surrounded by the UAE. The enclave is mostly empty, belonging to the Musandam territory of Oman further north. The only bigger development, the city of New Madha, is a very calm and quiet place (see pictures above).

The enclave is notable mainly for one geopolitical oddity: the village of Nahwa. Bizarrely, this village actually belongs to the UAE emirate of Sharjah, creating a Russian-doll effect whereby the UAE territory of Nahwa is enclosed within the Omani district of Madha, which is enclosed by the UAE emirates of Fujairah and Sharjah – which are themselves bookended by Omani territory on either side.

Interesting is that your mobile phone switches from UAE-providers to Oman Mobile, clearly stating that you are in a different country.

"The tiny Sharjah exclave of Nahwa is about 8 kms on a dirt track towards the west from the town of New Madha. It consisted of around 40 houses with its own clinic, telephone exchange. The shopkeeper also said that Omani territory is fairly undeveloped and empty, whereas Nahwa has some development on it." - source

^ Al Nahwa is majestically situated between mountains and is clearly a wealthy settlement with new and modern buildings.

Source links and further information: one, two, three, four, wikipedia

Dikson is the northernmost port in Russia and one of the northernmost settlements in the world. It is located so far north that one may experience complete darkness with no civil twilight from the 8th of December to the 5th of January. In most major settlements north of the Arctic Circle, there is still substantial twilight during the polar night at midday. It is also one of the most isolated settlements in the world. Dikson is named after a Swedish explorer.

Initially Diksonsky District, which includes the Island and the mainland seaport, was home to two small settlements. These eventually merged into one in 1957, and so today you will find that the two are closely linked. The population on the actual island is only about 1 100. The island seems to have an interesting history that includes being visited by German battleships. However, not much is known about Dikson Island in general and most people would not dare travel here. Not only is the island incredibly cold and small, but winter lasts a total of ten months here, making the landscape barren and uninviting. In fact, for two of those months, the sun doesn’t even rise over Dikson Island. 

Jan Mayen is a tiny volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean, 600 miles west of Norway and 350 miles north of Iceland. It is dominated by the 7,470-foot-high Mt. Beerenberg, the northernmost active volcano in the world, which last erupted in 1985. It is a territory of Norway, and has no native population. The eighteen people who currently live there operate the weather station, LORAN-C transmitter, and coastal radio station. Their base is called Olonkin City, which is located on the southwest coast. Small planes come in several times throughout the year, landing on the unpaved airstrip to bring supplies to the station personnel.

For many years no one was allowed to visit the island, but recently the tiny island has become available to tourists and a Jan Mayen cruise has found growing interest. As it is a territory of Norway, visitors need a passport to set foot on the island, and must keep in mind a few basic rules. As the environment is extremely fragile, no souvenirs—in the form of flowers, moss, or fungi—may be gathered. Permission to climb Beerenberg while on a tour of Jan Mayen must be requested from the Station Commander, as the glaciers are dangerous and often deeply crevassed.

It’s easy to miss The Gambia on a map of mighty Africa. This tiny sliver of land is a mere 500km long and 50km wide, and, with the exception of an 80km shoreline, it’s entirely enveloped by SenegalThe Gambia is one of Africa’s smallest countries and unlike many of its West African neighbours it has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence.

Stability has not translated into prosperity. Despite the presence of the Gambia river, which runs through the middle of the country, only one-sixth of the land is arable and poor soil quality has led to the predominance of one crop - peanuts. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

Three Gambian journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt. It has been suggested that they were imprisoned for criticising the government’s economic policy, or for stating that a former interior minister and security chief was among the plotters. Licensing fees are high for newspapers and radio stations, and the only nationwide stations are tightly controlled by the government.

In 2008, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh promised to enact laws against homosexuality that would be “stricter than those in Iran,” and that he would “cut off the head” of any gay or lesbian person discovered in the country. He issued an “ultimatum” ordering gays or lesbians to leave the country within 24 hours.

The Pitcairn Islands are a loosely grouped handful of tiny islands in the remote South Pacific, farther from any continent than any other inhabited island. The islands are the last British colony in the South Pacific and most isolated British dependency. With only about 48 inhabitants (currently from four main families: Christian, Warren, Young and Brown), Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction in the world. The rugged main island was settled by the infamous mutineers of the HMS Bounty and their Polynesian companions, and most of Pitcairn’s mere four dozen current inhabitants are their descendants.They are one of the least-populated entities given an ISO country code (PN).

The population are mostly members of the Seventh Day Adventist church, following mission work in the late 19th century. Although religious observance has declined, church doctrine strongly influences both public practice and civil law. For example, alcohol was legally prohibited until recently; dancing, public displays of affection, and cigarette smoking are frowned upon; and the Sabbath (Saturday) is consistently considered a day of rest (if not worship). 

The recent trials of several Pitcairn men (including the former mayor and much of the island’s workforce) on sexual abuse charges have been very difficult for the close-knit island community, with everyone being a friend or family of at least one of the victims, the suspects, or the convicted. The incident has also brought to the surface tensions over Pitcairn’s sovereignty (such as unfamiliar UK laws being tried by New Zealand courts).

The island is out-of-range of all evacuation helicopters. Needless to say, this is no place to have a heart attack, stroke, and so on. A full medical check-up back home a couple weeks before arrival is strongly recommended.

The self-declared country of Transnistria clings to its Soviet roots. Located on a sliver of land where the eastern border of Moldova meets Ukraine, Transnistria has its own government, parliament, military, police and postal system, but remains unrecognised internationally.

Though it has all the trappings of an independent nation, it isn’t officially recognised by any other sovereign nation - not even Russia - and to all intents and purposes is still considered to be part of Moldova.

Visitors to Transnistria coming from Moldova must complete all the formalities of a border crossing at a checkpoint manned by Russian, Transnistrian and Moldovan soldiers.

The territory maintains a Soviet feel that has been described as “surreal”, with the flag sporting the hammer and sickle emblem of Communism. Soviet-era monuments still look out over public areas and buildings adorned with socialist-realist murals. These Communist relics are actively cared for and maintained thanks to municipal funds.

Despite scare reports, Tiraspol is very welcoming, mainly because it gets so few tourists. Young people speak English and are helpful. The city is well-policed. Crime is low.

Approximately 45 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda was once home to Britain’s most isolated community. 

Most modern commentators feel that the predominant theme of life on St Kilda was isolation. When Martin Martin visited the islands in 1697, the only means of making the journey was by open boat, which could take several days and nights of rowing and sailing across the ocean and was next to impossible in autumn and winter. In all seasons, waves up to 12 metres (39 ft) high lash the beach of Village Bay, and even on calmer days landing on the slippery rocks can be hazardous. Separated by distance and weather, the natives knew little of mainland and international politics. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, it was rumoured that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and some of his senior Jacobite aides had escaped to St Kilda. An expedition was launched, and in due course British soldiers were ferried ashore to Hirta. They found a deserted village, as the St Kildans, fearing pirates, had fled to caves to the west. When the St Kildans were persuaded to come down, the soldiers discovered that the isolated natives knew nothing of the prince and had never heard of King George II either.

Numerous factors led to the evacuation of St Kilda. The islands’ inhabitants had existed for centuries in relative isolation until tourism and the presence of the military in World War I induced the islanders to seek alternatives to privations they routinely suffered. The changes made to the island by visitors in the nineteenth century disconnected the islanders from the way of life that had allowed their forebears to survive in this unique environment.

Campione d’Italia is an Italian comune (municipality) of the Province of Como in the Lombardy region, being an Italian exclave within the Swiss canton of Ticino, separated from the rest of Italy by Lake Lugano and mountains. The enclave is less than 1 km at the shortest point from the rest of Italy, but the hilly terrain requires a journey by road of over 14 km to reach the nearest Italian town, Lanzo d’Intelvi, and over 28 km to reach the city of Como.

Campione has a considerable amount of economic and administrative integration with Switzerland. Because of its particular status, legal tender in the town is the Swiss franc, but the euro is widely accepted; Italian citizens residing in Campione must abide by Swiss law regarding customs duties. Car plates are not Italian, but Swiss; similarly, the telephone system is almost entirely operated by Swisscom, meaning that calls from Italy and all other countries outside Switzerland (with very few exceptions such as calling the city hall) require the international dialing code for Switzerland (+41) and the Ticino area code (91). Mail may be sent using either a Swiss postal code or an Italian one using Switzerland or Italy as destination country respectively.

Pursuant to bilateral agreements, Italians residing in Campione also benefit from many services and facilities located in Swiss territory, such as hospital care, that would otherwise be available only to Swiss residents.