According to an article published on the Guardian, when Jeremiah Heaton’s seven-year-old daughter Emily turned to him one night last winter and asked him if she would ever be a real princess, he was faced with a dilemma.

“I didn’t want to break her spirits, so I said ‘yes, absolutely,’ he told the Guardian by phone from his home in Abingdon, Virginia, this week. “At that point I had no idea how to make it happen, but I couldn’t let her down. She had such a serious tone. I knew it meant a lot to her.”

 

The 38-year-old American took to Google to begin researching disputed regions across the world. He figured that to make his daughter a princess, he would have to make himself a king.

“I looked at Antarctica, and there is unclaimed land there, but there is a treaty that means people can’t claim it. So I kept researching, and I found Bir Tawil”.

Sandwiched between Egypt and Sudan, Bir Tawil is an area of around 800 square miles not far from the Red Sea, and is a geographical anomaly known as a ‘terra nullius’ - a land that belongs to no-one. Following a decades-old land dispute, neither Egypt or Sudan have laid claim to it.

Heaton had found what he was looking for. In June, he flew to Egypt and made a 14-hour journey through the desert to plant a flag (designed and made by his three children over the course of “a few dinners”) in the earth at Bir Tawil, laying claim to it on behalf of him and his family.

“It has been unclaimed for around 100 years,” Heaton explained. “I just followed the same process as many others have done over hundreds of years, planted our flag, and claimed it.”

Heaton, who works in the mining industry and ran for Congress in 2012, said he, his wife Kelly, and his three children have decided to rename the territory the Kingdom of North Sudan, and plan to launch a website to spell out their vision for the new country.

This vision includes using the land as a “testbed” for scientific advancement to help improve global food security.

He says the country’s initial development would be based on “four pillars”; innovative agricultural production, renewable energy, digital freedom and digital currency. The first two are particularly important to his children, Emily, 12 year-old Justin and 10 year-old Caleb, who know there are “a lot of hungry people in the world” and “would like to help”.

Read more on the Guardian