Jeremiah and Emily Heaton
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier/AP
Like all little girls, Emily Heaton wanted to be a princess – only her dad actually made it happen.
Jeremiah Heaton was playing with his then 6-year-old daughter last winter when she asked him if she could ever be a real princess. He told her yes, then journeyed to a stretch of unclaimed desert in Africa to plant a flag for her.
"I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true," Heaton told the Washington Post
The area, about 800 square miles, sits along the Sudanese border and was previously known as Bir Tawil by the locals. Heaton and his family now call it the "Kingdom of North Sudan."
The father of three plans to formally reach out to the African Union for cooperation in establishing his kingdom.
Heaton found the land after searching online for unclaimed territories of the world. A border dispute between Egypt and Sudan left the remote patch of desert as "terra nullius," meaning "land belonging to no one." He requested permission from the Egyptian authorities to visit the area, admitting that he was dubious of his own plan at first. But everything worked out in the end.
"I cannot stress how kind and generous the Egyptian people are," Heaton told the Post
He now plans to convert the area into an agricultural production center, after his daughter said she wanted to make sure people of the region had enough food.
"That's definitely a concern in that part of the world," Heaton told the Associated Press
. "We discussed what we could do as a nation to help."
It remains unclear whether Heaton's claim over the land will be deemed legitimate. At the very least, he will need to get legal recognition from the neighboring nations.
"I feel confident in the claim we've made," Heaton told the AP. "That's the exact same process that has been done for thousands of years. The exception is this nation was claimed for love."