Red Sea

Red Sea

Overview

The Red Sea is a seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 inlet
Inlet
An inlet is a narrow body of water between islands or leading inland from a larger body of water, often leading to an enclosed body of water, such as a sound, bay, lagoon or marsh. In sea coasts an inlet usually refers to the actual connection between a bay and the ocean and is often called an...

 of the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, lying between Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

, the Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba
The Gulf of Aqaba is a large gulf located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. In pre twentieth-century and modern sources it is often named the Gulf of Eilat, as Eilat is its predominant Israeli city ....

, and the Gulf of Suez
Gulf of Suez
The northern end of the Red Sea is bifurcated by the Sinai Peninsula, creating the Gulf of Suez in the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The Gulf of Suez is formed within a relatively young, but now inactive rift basin, the Gulf of Suez Rift, dating back about 28 million years...

 (leading to the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

). The Red Sea is a Global 200
Global 200
The Global 200 is the list of ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund as priorities for conservation. According to the WWF, an ecoregion is defined as a "relatively large unit of land or water containing a characteristic set of natural communities that share a large majority of their...

 ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift
Red Sea Rift
The Red Sea Rift is a spreading center between two tectonic plates, the African Plate and the Arabian Plate. It extends down the length of the Red Sea, stretching from the southern end of the Dead Sea Transform to a triple junction with the Aden Ridge and the East African Rift in the Afar...

 which is part of the Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

.

The Red Sea has a surface area of roughly 438,000 km² (169,100 mi²).
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Encyclopedia

The Red Sea is a seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 inlet
Inlet
An inlet is a narrow body of water between islands or leading inland from a larger body of water, often leading to an enclosed body of water, such as a sound, bay, lagoon or marsh. In sea coasts an inlet usually refers to the actual connection between a bay and the ocean and is often called an...

 of the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, lying between Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

, the Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba
The Gulf of Aqaba is a large gulf located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. In pre twentieth-century and modern sources it is often named the Gulf of Eilat, as Eilat is its predominant Israeli city ....

, and the Gulf of Suez
Gulf of Suez
The northern end of the Red Sea is bifurcated by the Sinai Peninsula, creating the Gulf of Suez in the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The Gulf of Suez is formed within a relatively young, but now inactive rift basin, the Gulf of Suez Rift, dating back about 28 million years...

 (leading to the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

). The Red Sea is a Global 200
Global 200
The Global 200 is the list of ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund as priorities for conservation. According to the WWF, an ecoregion is defined as a "relatively large unit of land or water containing a characteristic set of natural communities that share a large majority of their...

 ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift
Red Sea Rift
The Red Sea Rift is a spreading center between two tectonic plates, the African Plate and the Arabian Plate. It extends down the length of the Red Sea, stretching from the southern end of the Dead Sea Transform to a triple junction with the Aden Ridge and the East African Rift in the Afar...

 which is part of the Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

.

The Red Sea has a surface area of roughly 438,000 km² (169,100 mi²). It is about 2250 km (1398 mi) long and, at its widest point, 355 km (220.6 mi) wide. It has a maximum depth of 2211 m (7254 ft) in the central median trench, and an average depth of 490 m (1,608 ft). However, there are also extensive shallow shelves, noted for their marine life and coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

s. The sea is the habitat of over 1,000 invertebrate
Invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

 species, and 200 soft and hard corals. It is the world's northernmost tropical
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 sea.

Extent


The International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is the inter-governmental organisation representing the hydrographic community. It enjoys observer status at the UN and is the recognised competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting...

 defines the limits of the Red Sea as follows:

On the North. The Southern limits of the Gulfs of Suez
Gulf of Suez
The northern end of the Red Sea is bifurcated by the Sinai Peninsula, creating the Gulf of Suez in the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The Gulf of Suez is formed within a relatively young, but now inactive rift basin, the Gulf of Suez Rift, dating back about 28 million years...

 [A line running from Ràs Muhammed (27°43'N) to the South point of Shadwan
Shadwan
Shadwan is a barren rocky island in the mouth of the Gulf of Suez in the northern Red Sea. Situated some 20 miles from Sharm el-Sheikh, the island is in length, and between 3 and 5 km wide. It was formerly also called Shaker Island...

 Island (34°02'E) and thence Westward on a parallel (27°27'N) to the coast of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

] and Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba
The Gulf of Aqaba is a large gulf located at the northern tip of the Red Sea. In pre twentieth-century and modern sources it is often named the Gulf of Eilat, as Eilat is its predominant Israeli city ....

 [A line running from Ràs al Fasma Southwesterly to Requin Island (27°57′N 34°36′E) through Tiran Island
Tiran Island
Tiran is an Egyptian-administered island that belongs to Egypt and is being claimed by Saudi Arabia. It is located at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba. It has an area of about 80 km2...

 to the Southwest point thereof and thence Westward on a parallel (27°54'N) to the coast of the Sinaï Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

].

On the South. A line joining Husn Murad (12°40′N 43°30′E) and Ras Siyan

Ras Siyan
Ras Siyan is a peninsula in the Obock Region of Djibouti. Located at , it lies on the coast of the Bab-el-Mandeb....

 (12°29′N 43°20′E).

Name


Red Sea is a direct translation of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Erythra Thalassa and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Mare Rubrum (alternatively Sinus Arabicus, literally "Arabian Gulf"), Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

  (البحر الأحمر) or (بحر القلزم), Somali
Somali language
The Somali language is a member of the East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Its nearest relatives are Afar and Oromo. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages, with academic studies beginning before 1900....

 Badda Cas and Tigrinya
Tigrinya language
Tigrinya , also spelled Tigrigna, Tigrnia, Tigrina, Tigriña, less commonly Tigrinian, Tigrinyan, is a Semitic language spoken by the Tigrinya people in central Eritrea , where it is one of the two main languages of Eritrea, and in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia , where it...

  (ቀይሕ ባሕሪ).

The name of the sea may signify the seasonal blooms of the red-coloured Trichodesmium erythraeum
Trichodesmium
Trichodesmium, also called sea sawdust, is a genus of filamentous cyanobacteria. They are found in nutrient poor tropical and subtropical ocean waters . Trichodesmium fixes atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium, usable also for other organisms...

near the water's surface.

A theory favored by some modern scholars is that the name red is referring to the direction South, just as the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

's name may refer to North. The basis of this theory is that some Asiatic languages used color words to refer to the cardinal directions. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 on one occasion uses Red Sea and Southern Sea interchangeably.

The association of the Red Sea with the Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 account of the Israelite Crossing the Red Sea is ancient, and was made explicit in the Septuagint translation of the Book of Exodus from Hebrew to Koine Greek in approximately the third century B.C. In that version, the Hebrew Yam Suph
Yam Suph
Yam Suph is a phrase which occurs about 23 times in the Tanakh and has traditionally been understood to refer to the salt water inlet located between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, known in English as the Red Sea...

(ים סוף) is translated as Erythra Thalassa (Red Sea). (See also the more recent suggestion that the Yam Suph of the Exodus refers to a Sea of Reeds).

The Red Sea is one of four seas named in English after common color terms — the others being the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, the White Sea
White Sea
The White Sea is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia. It is surrounded by Karelia to the west, the Kola Peninsula to the north, and the Kanin Peninsula to the northeast. The whole of the White Sea is under Russian sovereignty and considered to be part of...

 and the Yellow Sea
Yellow Sea
The Yellow Sea is the name given to the northern part of the East China Sea, which is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It is located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula. Its name comes from the sand particles from Gobi Desert sand storms that turn the surface of the water golden...

.

The direct rendition of the Greek Erythra thalassa in Latin as Mare Erythraeum
Mare Erythraeum
Mare Erythraeum is a very large dark dusky region of Mars that can be viewed by even a small telescope. The name comes from the Latin for the Erythraean Sea, because it was originally thought to be a large sea of liquid water. It was included in Percival Lowell's 1895 map of Mars.-External links:*...

 refers to the north-western part of the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, and also to a region on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

.

History



The earliest known exploration of the Red Sea was conducted by Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ians, as they attempted to establish commercial routes to Punt
Land of Punt
The Land of Punt, also called Pwenet, or Pwene by the ancient Egyptians, was a trading partner known for producing and exporting gold, aromatic resins, African blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals...

. One such expedition took place around 2500 BC, and another around 1500 BC ( by Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut also Hatchepsut; meaning Foremost of Noble Ladies;1508–1458 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt...

 ). Both involved long voyages down the Red Sea.

The Biblical Book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites' miraculous crossing of a body of water, which the Hebrew text calls Yam Suph
Yam Suph
Yam Suph is a phrase which occurs about 23 times in the Tanakh and has traditionally been understood to refer to the salt water inlet located between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, known in English as the Red Sea...

. Yam Suph is traditionally identified as the Red Sea. The account is part of the Israelites' escape from slavery in Egypt
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

. Yam Suph can also been translated as Sea of Reeds.

In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great of Persia sent reconnaissance missions to the Red Sea, improving and extending navigation by locating many hazardous rocks and currents. A canal was built between the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 and the northern end of the Red Sea at Suez
Suez
Suez is a seaport city in north-eastern Egypt, located on the north coast of the Gulf of Suez , near the southern terminus of the Suez Canal, having the same boundaries as Suez governorate. It has three harbors, Adabya, Ain Sokhna and Port Tawfiq, and extensive port facilities...

. In the late 4th century BC, Alexander the Great sent Greek naval expeditions down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Greek navigators continued to explore and compile data on the Red Sea. Agatharchides
Agatharchides
Agatharchides of Cnidus was a Greek historian and geographer .-Life:He is believed to have been born at Cnidus, hence his appellation. As Stanley M...

 collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea or Periplus of the Red Sea is a Greco-Roman periplus, written in Greek, describing navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Northeast Africa and India...

("Periplus of the Red Sea"), a Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 periplus
Periplus
Periplus is the Latinization of an ancient Greek word, περίπλους , literally "a sailing-around." Both segments, peri- and -plous, were independently productive: the ancient Greek speaker understood the word in its literal sense; however, it developed a few specialized meanings, one of which became...

 written by an unknown author around the 1st century AD, contain a detailed description of the Red Sea's ports and sea routes. The Periplus also describes how Hippalus
Hippalus
Hippalus was a Greek navigator and merchant who probably lived in the 1st century BCE. He is sometimes conjectured to have been the captain of the Greek explorer Eudoxus of Cyzicus' ship....

 first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India.

The Red Sea was favored for Roman trade with India
Roman trade with India
Roman trade with India through the overland caravan routes via Anatolia and Persia, though at a relative trickle compared to later times, antedated the southern trade route via the Red Sea and monsoons which started around the beginning of the Common Era following the reign of Augustus and his...

 starting with the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, when the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, and the northern Red Sea. The route had been used by previous states but grew in the volume of traffic under the Romans. From Indian ports goods from China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 were introduced to the Roman world. Contact between Rome and China depended on the Red Sea, but the route was broken by the Aksumite Empire
Aksumite Empire
The Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire, was an important trading nation in northeastern Africa, growing from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period ca. 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD...

 around the 3rd century AD.

During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, the Red Sea was an important part of the Spice trade
Spice trade
Civilizations of Asia were involved in spice trade from the ancient times, and the Greco-Roman world soon followed by trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes...

 route. In 1513, trying to secure that channel to Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque
Afonso de Albuquerque
Afonso de Albuquerque[p][n] was a Portuguese fidalgo, or nobleman, an admiral whose military and administrative activities as second governor of Portuguese India conquered and established the Portuguese colonial empire in the Indian Ocean...

 laid siege to Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

. but was forced to retreat. They cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, as the first European fleet to have sailed this waters.

In 1798, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 ordered General Bonaparte
Bonaparte
The House of Bonaparte is an imperial and royal European dynasty founded by Napoleon I of France in 1804, a French military leader who rose to notability out of the French Revolution and transformed the French Republic into the First French Empire within five years of his coup d'état...

 to invade Egypt and take control of the Red Sea. Although he failed in his mission, the engineer Jean-Baptiste Lepère
Jean-Baptiste Lepère
Jean-Baptiste Lepère was a French architect, father-in-law of the architect Jacques Hittorff. He was the designer of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul church, Paris, largely revised by Hittorf during its protracted execution, and one of the architects who worked on raising the colonne Vendôme.Lepère was one...

, who took part in it, revitalised the plan for a canal which had been envisaged during the reign of the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

s. Several canals were built in ancient times from the Nile to the Red Sea along or near the line of the present Sweet Water Canal
Sweet Water Canal
The Sweet Water Canal is a modern canal of Egypt, running along the northern periphery of the now dry distributary of the Wadi Tumilat and extending from Port Said in the north all the way to Suez in the south....

, but none lasted for long. The Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 was opened in November 1869. At the time, the British, French, and Italians shared the trading posts. The posts were gradually dismantled following the First World War. After the Second World War, the Americans and Soviets exerted their influence whilst the volume of oil tanker traffic intensified. However, the Six Day War culminated in the closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to 1975. Today, in spite of patrols by the major maritime fleets in the waters of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal has never recovered its supremacy over the Cape route, which is believed to be less vulnerable.

Oceanography



The Red Sea lies between arid land, desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 and semi-desert. The main reasons for the better development of reef systems along the Red Sea is because of its greater depths and an efficient water circulation pattern, The Red Sea water mass exchanges its water with the Arabian Sea
Arabian Sea
The Arabian Sea is a region of the Indian Ocean bounded on the east by India, on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, on the south, approximately, by a line between Cape Guardafui in northeastern Somalia and Kanyakumari in India...

, Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 via the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

. These physical factors reduce the effect of high salinity caused by evaporation water in the north and relatively hot water in the south.

The climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 of the Red Sea is the result of two distinct monsoon seasons; a northeasterly monsoon and a southwesterly monsoon. Monsoon winds occur because of the differential heating between the land surface and sea. Very high surface temperatures coupled with high salinities makes this one of the hottest and saltiest bodies of seawater in the world. The average surface water temperature of the Red Sea during the summer is about 26 °C (79 °F) in the north and 30 °C (86 °F) in the south, with only about 2 °C (3.6 °F) variation during the winter months. The overall average water temperature is 22 °C (72 °F).
Today surface water temperatures remain relatively constant at 21–25 °C (70–77 °F). Temperature and visibility remain good to around 200 m (656 ft). The sea is known for its strong winds and unpredictable local currents.

The rainfall over the Red Sea and its coasts is extremely low, averaging 0.06 m (2.36 in) per year. The rain is mostly in the form of showers of short spells, often associated with thunderstorms and occasionally with dust storm
Storm
A storm is any disturbed state of an astronomical body's atmosphere, especially affecting its surface, and strongly implying severe weather...

s. The scarcity of rainfall and no major source of fresh water to the Red Sea result in the excess evaporation as high as 205 cm (81 in) per year and high salinity with minimal seasonal variation. A recent underwater expedition to the Red Sea offshore from Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 and Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 found surface water temperatures 28 °C in winter and up to 34 °C in the summer, but despite that extreme heat the coral was healthy with much fish life with very little sign of coral bleaching
Coral bleaching
Coral bleaching is the loss of intracellular endosymbionts through either expulsion or loss of algal pigmentation.The corals that form the structure of the great reef ecosystems of tropical seas depend upon a symbiotic relationship with unicellular flagellate protozoa, called zooxanthellae, that...

, and there were plans to use samples of these corals' apparently heat-adapted commensal algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 to salvage bleached coral elsewhere.

Salinity


The Red Sea is one of the most saline bodies of water in the world, due to high evaporation. Salinity
Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

 ranges from between ~36 ‰ in the southern part due to the effect of the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

 water and reaches 41 ‰ in the northern part, due mainly to the Gulf of Suez
Gulf of Suez
The northern end of the Red Sea is bifurcated by the Sinai Peninsula, creating the Gulf of Suez in the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The Gulf of Suez is formed within a relatively young, but now inactive rift basin, the Gulf of Suez Rift, dating back about 28 million years...

 water and the high evaporation. The average salinity is 40 ‰. (Average salinity for the world's seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

 is ~35 ‰ on the Practical Salinity Scale, or PPS; that translates to 3.5 % actual dissolved salts.)

In terms of salinity
Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

, the Red Sea is greater than the world average, approximately 4 percent. This is due to several factors:
  1. High rate of evaporation and very little precipitation.
  2. Lack of significant rivers or streams draining into the sea.
  3. Limited connection with the Indian Ocean, which has lower water salinity.

Tidal range


In general tide ranges between 0.6 m (2 ft) in the north, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez and 0.9 m (3 ft) in the south near the Gulf of Aden but it fluctuates between 0.2 m (0.656167979002625 ft) and 0.3 m (0.984251968503937 ft) away from the nodal point. The central Red Sea (Jeddah area) is therefore almost tideless, and as such the annual water level changes are more significant. Because of the small tidal range the water during high tide inundates the coastal sabkha
Sabkha
Sabkha is a transliteration of the Arabic word for a salt flat. Sabkhas are supratidal, forming along arid coastlines and are characterized by evaporite-carbonate deposits with some siliciclastics. Sabkhas form subaerial, prograding and shoaling-upward sequences that have an average thickness of a...

s as a thin sheet of water up to a few hundred metres rather than inundating the sabkhas through a network of channels. However, south of Jeddah in the Shoiaba area the water from the lagoon may cover the adjoining sabkhas as far as 3 km (2 mi) whereas, north of Jeddah in the Al-kharrar area the sabkhas are covered by a thin sheet of water as far as 2 km (1.2 mi). The prevailing north and northeastern winds influence the movement of water in the coastal inlets to the adjacent sabkhas, especially during storms. Winter mean sea level is 0.5 m (1.6 ft) higher than in summer. Tidal velocities passing through constrictions caused by reefs, sand bars and low islands commonly exceed 1–2 m/s (3–6.5 ft/s).
Coral reefs in the Red Sea are near Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Sudan.

Current


In the Red Sea detailed current data is lacking, partially because they are weak and variable both spatially and temporally. Temporal and spatial currents variation is as low as 0.5 m (1.6 ft) and are governed all by wind. During the summer, NW winds drive surface water south for about four months at a velocity of 15–20 cm/s (6–8 in/s), whereas in winter the flow is reversed resulting in the inflow of water from the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea. The net value of the latter predominates, resulting in an overall drift to the northern end of the Red Sea. Generally, the velocity of the tidal current is between 50–60 cm/s (20–23.6 in/s) with a maximum of 1 m/s (3.3 ft) at the mouth of the al-Kharrar Lagoon. However, the range of the north-northeast current along the Saudi coast is 8–29 cm/s (3–11.4 in/s).

Wind regime


With the exception of the northern part of the Red Sea, which is dominated by persistent north-west winds
WINDS
WINDS , is a Japanese communication satellite. Launch was originally scheduled for 2007. The launch date was eventually set for 15 February 2008, however a problem detected in a second stage manoeuvring thruster delayed it to 23 February...

, with speeds ranging between 7 km/h (4.3 mph) and 12 km/h (7.5 mph), the rest of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

 are subjected to the influence of regular and seasonally reversible winds. The wind regime
Regime
The word regime refers to a set of conditions, most often of a political nature.-Politics:...

 is characterized by both seasonal and regional variations in speed
Speed
In kinematics, the speed of an object is the magnitude of its velocity ; it is thus a scalar quantity. The average speed of an object in an interval of time is the distance traveled by the object divided by the duration of the interval; the instantaneous speed is the limit of the average speed as...

 and direction
Direction (geometry, geography)
Direction is the information contained in the relative position of one point with respect to another point without the distance information. Directions may be either relative to some indicated reference , or absolute according to some previously agreed upon frame of reference Direction is the...

 with average speed generally increasing northward.

Wind is the driving force in the Red Sea for transporting the material either as suspension or as bedload. Wind induced currents play an important role in the Red Sea in initiating the process of resuspension of bottom sediments and transfer of materials from sites of dumping to sites of burial in quiescent environment of deposition. Wind generated current measurement
Measurement
Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time, temperature etc., to a unit of measurement, such as the metre, second or degree Celsius...

 is therefore important in order to determine the sediment dispersal pattern and its role in the erosion and accretion of the coastal rock exposure and the submerged coral beds.

Geology


The Red Sea was formed by Arabia splitting from Africa due to movement of the Red Sea Rift
Red Sea Rift
The Red Sea Rift is a spreading center between two tectonic plates, the African Plate and the Arabian Plate. It extends down the length of the Red Sea, stretching from the southern end of the Dead Sea Transform to a triple junction with the Aden Ridge and the East African Rift in the Afar...

. This split started in the Eocene
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

 and accelerated during the Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

. The sea is still widening and it is considered that the sea will become an ocean in time (as proposed in the model of John Tuzo Wilson). In 1949, a deep water survey reported anomalously hot brines in the central portion of the Red Sea. Later work in the 1960s confirmed the presence of hot, 60 °C (140 °F), saline brines and associated metalliferous muds. The hot solutions were emanating from an active subseafloor rift. The highly saline character of the waters was not hospitable to living organisms.

Sometimes during the Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 period the Bab el Mandeb closed and the Red Sea evaporated to an empty hot dry salt-floored sink. Effects causing this would be:
  • A "race" between the Red Sea widening and Perim Island erupting
    Volcano
    2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

     filling the Bab el Mandeb with lava
    Lava
    Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

    .
  • The lowering of world sea level
    Sea level
    Mean sea level is a measure of the average height of the ocean's surface ; used as a standard in reckoning land elevation...

     during the Ice Age
    Ice age
    An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

    s due to much water being locked up in the ice cap
    Ice cap
    An ice cap is an ice mass that covers less than 50 000 km² of land area . Masses of ice covering more than 50 000 km² are termed an ice sheet....

    s.


A number of volcanic islands rise from the center of the sea. Most are dormant, but in 2007 Jabal al-Tair island
Jabal al-Tair Island
Jabal al-Tair Island is a roughly oval volcanic island northwest of the constricted Bab al-Mandab passage at the mouth of the Red Sea, about half way between Yemen and Eritrea...

 erupted violently.

Mineral resources



In terms of mineral resources the major constituents of the Red Sea sediments are as follows:
  • Biogenic constituents:
Nanofossils, foraminifera
Foraminifera
The Foraminifera , or forams for short, are a large group of amoeboid protists which are among the commonest plankton species. They have reticulating pseudopods, fine strands of cytoplasm that branch and merge to form a dynamic net...

, pteropods, siliceous fossils
  • Volcanogenic constituents:
Tuff
Tuff
Tuff is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered...

ites, volcanic ash
Volcanic ash
Volcanic ash consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions, less than in diameter. There are three mechanisms of volcanic ash formation: gas release under decompression causing magmatic eruptions; thermal contraction from chilling on contact...

, montmorillonite
Montmorillonite
Montmorillonite is a very soft phyllosilicate group of minerals that typically form in microscopic crystals, forming a clay. It is named after Montmorillon in France. Montmorillonite, a member of the smectite family, is a 2:1 clay, meaning that it has 2 tetrahedral sheets sandwiching a central...

, cristobalite
Cristobalite
The mineral cristobalite is a high-temperature polymorph of silica, meaning that it has the same chemical formula, SiO2, but a distinct crystal structure. Both quartz and cristobalite are polymorphs with all the members of the quartz group which also include coesite, tridymite and stishovite...

, zeolite
Zeolite
Zeolites are microporous, aluminosilicate minerals commonly used as commercial adsorbents. The term zeolite was originally coined in 1756 by Swedish mineralogist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, who observed that upon rapidly heating the material stilbite, it produced large amounts of steam from water that...

s
  • Terrigenous constituents:
Quartz
Quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

, feldspar
Feldspar
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals which make up as much as 60% of the Earth's crust....

s, rock fragments, mica
Mica
The mica group of sheet silicate minerals includes several closely related materials having highly perfect basal cleavage. All are monoclinic, with a tendency towards pseudohexagonal crystals, and are similar in chemical composition...

, heavy minerals, clay minerals
Clay minerals
Clay minerals are hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, sometimes with variable amounts of iron, magnesium, alkali metals, alkaline earths, and other cations. Clays have structures similar to the micas and therefore form flat hexagonal sheets. Clay minerals are common weathering products and low...

  • Authigenic minerals:
Sulfide mineral
Sulfide mineral
The sulfide minerals are a class of minerals containing sulfide as the major anion. Some sulfide minerals are economically important as metal ores. The sulfide class also includes the selenides, the tellurides, the arsenides, the antimonides, the bismuthinides, the sulfarsenides and the sulfosalts...

s, aragonite
Aragonite
Aragonite is a carbonate mineral, one of the two common, naturally occurring, crystal forms of calcium carbonate, CaCO3...

, Mg-calcite
Calcite
Calcite is a carbonate mineral and the most stable polymorph of calcium carbonate . The other polymorphs are the minerals aragonite and vaterite. Aragonite will change to calcite at 380-470°C, and vaterite is even less stable.-Properties:...

, protodolomite, dolomite
Dolomite
Dolomite is a carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate CaMg2. The term is also used to describe the sedimentary carbonate rock dolostone....

, quartz, chalcedony
Chalcedony
Chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline form of silica, composed of very fine intergrowths of the minerals quartz and moganite. These are both silica minerals, but they differ in that quartz has a trigonal crystal structure, while moganite is monoclinic...

.
  • Evaporite minerals:
Magnesite
Magnesite
Magnesite is magnesium carbonate, MgCO3. Iron substitutes for magnesium with a complete solution series with siderite, FeCO3. Calcium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel may also occur in small amounts...

, gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

, anhydrite
Anhydrite
Anhydrite is a mineral – anhydrous calcium sulfate, CaSO4. It is in the orthorhombic crystal system, with three directions of perfect cleavage parallel to the three planes of symmetry. It is not isomorphous with the orthorhombic barium and strontium sulfates, as might be expected from the...

, halite
Halite
Halite , commonly known as rock salt, is the mineral form of sodium chloride . Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on the amount and type of impurities...

, polyhalite
Polyhalite
Polyhalite is an evaporite mineral, a hydrated sulfate of potassium, calcium and magnesium with formula: K2Ca2Mg4·2. Polyhalite crystallizes in the triclinic system although crystals are very rare. The normal habit is massive to fibrous. It is typically colorless, white to gray, although it...

  • Brine precipitate:
Fe-montmorillonite, goethite
Goethite
Goethite , named after the German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is an iron bearing oxide mineral found in soil and other low-temperature environments. Goethite has been well known since prehistoric times for its use as a pigment. Evidence has been found of its use in paint pigment samples...

, hematite
Hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

, siderite
Siderite
Siderite is a mineral composed of iron carbonate FeCO3. It takes its name from the Greek word σίδηρος sideros, “iron”. It is a valuable iron mineral, since it is 48% iron and contains no sulfur or phosphorus...

, rhodochrosite
Rhodochrosite
Rhodochrosite is a manganese carbonate mineral with chemical composition MnCO3. In its pure form, it is typically a rose-red color, but impure specimens can be shades of pink to pale brown. The streak is white. Its Mohs hardness varies between 3.5 and 4. Its specific gravity is 3.5 to 3.7. It...

, pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

, sphalerite
Sphalerite
Sphalerite is a mineral that is the chief ore of zinc. It consists largely of zinc sulfide in crystalline form but almost always contains variable iron. When iron content is high it is an opaque black variety, marmatite. It is usually found in association with galena, pyrite, and other sulfides...

, anhydrite.

Living resources


The Red Sea is a rich and diverse ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

. More than 1200 species of fish
Fish of the Red Sea
-Demersal species:*Ambassidae**Ambassis gymnocephalus, Bald glassy**Ambassis urotaenia, Banded-tail glassy perchlet*Apistidae**Apistus carinatus, Ocellated waspfish*Aploactinidae**Cocotropus steinitzi**Ptarmus gallus*Apogonidae...

 have been recorded in the Red Sea, and around 10% of these are found nowhere else. This also includes 42 species of deepwater fish.

The rich diversity is in part due to the 2000 km (1,242.7 mi) of coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

 extending along its coastline; these fringing reef
Fringing reef
A fringing reef is one of the three main types of coral reefs recognized by most coral reef scientists. It is distinguished from the other two main types in that it has either an entirely shallow backreef zone or none at all...

s are 5000–7000 years old and are largely formed of stony acropora
Acropora
Acropora is a genus of scleractinian coral in the Phylum Cnidaria. Some of its species are known as table coral, elkhorn coral and staghorn coral. There are currently 149 described species...

 and porites
Porites
Porites is a genus of scleractinian coral which is characterised by a finger-like morphology. Members of this genus have widely spaced calices, a well-developed wall reticulum and are bilaterally symmetrical...

 corals. The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoon
Lagoon
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

s along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the Blue Hole (Red Sea) at Dahab
Dahab
Dahab is a small town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, located approximately northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab is considered to be one of the Sinai's most treasured diving destinations...

). These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of red sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark.

The Red Sea also contains many offshore reefs including several true atolls. Many of the unusual offshore reef formations defy classic (i.e., Darwinian) coral reef classification schemes, and are generally attributed to the high levels of tectonic activity that characterize the area.

The special biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 of the area is recognized by the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian government, who set up the Ras Mohammed National Park in 1983. The rules and regulations governing this area protect local marine life, which has become a major draw for diving
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 enthusiasts.

Divers
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 and snorkellers should be aware that although most Red Sea species are innocuous, a few are hazardous to humans: see Red Sea species hazardous to humans
Red Sea species hazardous to humans
Although most species in the Red Sea pose no threat to humans, there are a few notable exceptions.-Ciguatera poison:Ciguatera poisoning is a danger posed by fish at the top of the food chain, in particular the Twinspot snapper and Giant moray. These fish accumulate a toxin produced by a...

.

Other marine habitats include sea grass beds, salt pans
Dry lake
Dry lakes are ephemeral lakebeds, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes are also referred to as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats...

, mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s and salt marsh
Salt marsh
A salt marsh is an environment in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and salt water or brackish water, it is dominated by dense stands of halophytic plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh...

es.

Desalination plants


There is extensive demand of desalinated
Desalination
Desalination, desalinization, or desalinisation refers to any of several processes that remove some amount of salt and other minerals from saline water...

 water to meet the requirement of the population and the industries along the Red Sea.

There are at least 18 desalination plants along the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia which discharge warm brine
Brine
Brine is water, saturated or nearly saturated with salt .Brine is used to preserve vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, in a process known as brining . Brine is also commonly used to age Halloumi and Feta cheeses, or for pickling foodstuffs, as a means of preserving them...

 and treatment chemicals (chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 and anti-scalants) that may cause bleach
Bleach
Bleach refers to a number of chemicals that remove color, whiten, or disinfect, often via oxidation. Common chemical bleaches include household chlorine bleach , lye, oxygen bleach , and bleaching powder...

ing and mortality of coral
Coral
Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton.A coral "head" is a colony of...

s and diseases to the fish stocks. Although this is only a localized phenomenon, it may intensify with time and have a profound impact on the fishing industry.

The water from the Red Sea is also utilized by oil refineries
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

 and cement
Cement
In the most general sense of the word, a cement is a binder, a substance that sets and hardens independently, and can bind other materials together. The word "cement" traces to the Romans, who used the term opus caementicium to describe masonry resembling modern concrete that was made from crushed...

 factories for cooling purposes. Used water drained back into the coastal zones may cause harm to the nearshore environment of the Red Sea.

Security


The Red Sea is part of the sea roads between Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

, and as such has heavy shipping traffic
Shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

. Piracy in Somalia
Piracy in Somalia
Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a threat to international shipping since the second phase of the Somali Civil War in the early 21st century...

 occurs principally near the area of the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

 south of the sea. Government-related bodies with responsibility to police the Red Sea area include the Port Said Port Authority
Port Said Port Authority
The Port Said Port Authority is a government agency of Egypt, charged with the responsibility to govern, regulate and develop the port facilities in the vicinity of Port Said in the Mediterranean Sea, on the northern terminus of the Suez Canal...

, Suez Canal Authority
Suez Canal Authority
is a state owned authority which owns, operates and maintains the Suez Canal. It was set up by Egypt to replace the Suez Canal Company in the 1950s which resulted in the Suez Crisis...

 and Red Sea Ports Authority of Egypt, Jordan Maritime Authority
Jordan Maritime Authority
The Jordan Maritime Authority is a government agency with the responsibility of governing the Red Sea and domestic ports, sea roads and shipping of Jordan. It was established in 2002 by Royal Decree and functions in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport. It is headquartered in Aqaba....

, Israel Port Authority
Israel Port Authority
Israel Ports and Railway Authority is the governmental agency which operates and manages Israel's seaports in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat. The Ports Authority was set up on July 1, 1961, under the Ports Authority Law 5721-1961...

, Saudi Ports Authority
Saudi Ports Authority
Saudi Ports Authority is a government agency that supervises the ports of Saudi Arabia. It was founded in 1976 as an independent agency of the Prime Minister's office, to bring together the governance and operations of the multiple ports of the country to one office...

 and Sea Ports Corporation
Sea Ports Corporation, Sudan
Sea Ports Corporation is an independent state corporation of Sudan that governs, constructs and maintains the ports, harbors and lighthouses of Sudan...

 of Sudan.

Facts and figures

  • Length: ~2250 km (1,398.1 mi) - 79% of the eastern Red Sea with numerous coastal inlets
  • Maximum Width: ~ 306–355 km (190–220 mi)– Massawa (Eritrea)
  • Minimum Width: ~ 26–29 km (16–18 mi)- Bab el Mandeb Strait (Yemen)
  • Average Width: ~ 280 km (174 mi)
  • Average Depth: ~ 490 m (1,607.6 ft)
  • Maximum Depth: ~2211 m (7,253.9 ft)
  • Surface Area: 438-450 x 10² km² (16,900–17,400 sq mi)
  • Volume: 215–251 x 10³ km³ (51,600–60,200 cu mi)

  • Approximately 40% of the Red Sea is quite shallow (under 100 m/330 ft), and about 25% is under 50 m (164 ft) deep.
  • About 15% of the Red Sea is over 1000 m (3,280.8 ft) depth that forms the deep axial trough.
  • Shelf breaks are marked by coral reefs
  • Continental slope has an irregular profile (series of steps down to ~500 m (1,640 ft))
  • Centre of Red Sea has a narrow trough (~ 1000 m (3,281 ft); some deeps may exceed 2500 m (8,202 ft))

Tourism



The sea is known for its spectacular recreational diving
Recreational diving
Recreational diving or sport diving is a type of diving that uses SCUBA equipment for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment. In some diving circles, the term "recreational diving" is used in contradistinction to "technical diving", a more demanding aspect of the sport which requires greater levels...

 sites, such as Ras Mohammed, SS Thistlegorm
SS Thistlegorm
The SS Thistlegorm was a British armed Merchant Navy ship built in 1940 by Joseph Thompson & Son in Sunderland, England. She was sunk on 6 October 1941 near Ras Muhammad in the Red Sea and is now a well known dive site.-Construction:...

 (shipwreck), Elphinstone, The Brothers, Dolphin Reef
Dolphin Reef
Dolphin Reef is a horseshoe-shaped reef found in the Red Sea. It lies in open water to the northeast of Ras Banas. The eastern side has a steeply sloping wall profile, giving way to a sandy slope. Many species of fish can be found in the area. Angelfish, butterflyfish, cuttlefish, bluespotted and...

 and Rocky Island in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and less known sites in Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 such as Sanganeb, Abington, Angarosh and Shaab Rumi (see photo above).

The Red Sea became known as a sought-after diving destination after the expeditions of Hans Hass
Hans Hass
Hans Hass is a diving pioneer known mainly for his documentaries about sharks, the energon theory, and his commitment, later in life, to the protection of the environment. He was born in Vienna, Austria.-Early years:...

 in the 1950s, and later by Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water...

. Popular tourist resorts include El Gouna, Hurghada
Hurghada
Hurghada is a city in the Red Sea Governorate of Egypt. It is a main tourist center and second largest city in Egypt located on the Red Sea coast.- Overview :...

, Safaga, Marsa Alam
Marsa Alam
Marsa Alam is a town in south-eastern Egypt, located on the western shore of the Red Sea. It is currently seeing fast increasing popularity as a tourist destination and development following the opening of Marsa Alam International Airport in 2001....

, on the western shore of the Red Sea, and Sharm-El-Sheikh, Dahab
Dahab
Dahab is a small town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, located approximately northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab is considered to be one of the Sinai's most treasured diving destinations...

, and Taba on the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian side of Sinaï, as well as Aqaba
Aqaba
Aqaba is a coastal city in the far south of Jordan, the capital of Aqaba Governorate at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. Aqaba is best known today as a diving and beach resort, but industrial activity remains important...

 in Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and Eilat in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 in an area known as the Red Sea Riviera
Red Sea Riviera
The Red Sea Riviera, in Egypt, consists of the resort cities lying on the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and along the eastern coast of mainland Egypt south of the Gulf of Suez...

.

The popular tourist beach of Sharm el-Sheikh was closed to all swimming in December 2010 due to several serious shark attacks, including one fatal one. As of December 2010, scientists are investigating the attacks and have identified, but not verified, several possible causes including over fishing which causes large sharks to hunt closer to shore, tourist boat operators who chum the waters just offshore to present shark-photo opportunities, and reports of passing ships throwing dead livestock overboard. Furthermore the geography of some parts of the Red Sea is such that large sharks can sometimes wander close to shore. This is due to the sea's narrow width, significant depth, and sharp drop-offs, all of which combine to form a geography where large deep-water sharks can roam in hundreds of meters of water, yet be within a hundred meters of swimming areas.

Bordering countries


The Red Sea may be geographically divided into three sections: the Red Sea proper, and in the north, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez. The six countries bordering the Red Sea proper are:
  • Eastern shore:
  • Western shore:


The Gulf of Suez is entirely bordered by Egypt. The Gulf of Aqaba borders Egypt, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the standard geographical definition of the six countries bordering the Red Sea cited above, areas such as Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 and Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 are sometimes also described as Red Sea territories. This is primarily due to their proximity to and geological similarities with the nations facing the Red Sea and/or political ties with said areas.

Towns and cities


Towns and cities on the Red Sea coast (including the coasts of the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez) include:

Al Hudaydah
Al Hudaydah
Al Hudaydah is the fourth largest city in Yemen with a population of 400,000 people, and the centre of Al Hudaydah Governorate.-Overview:...

 (الحديدة) Al Lith
Al Lith
Al Lith a coastal town in western Saudi Arabia. Al Lith survives with farming and fishing. It is located at around .It is located on Mecca/Jeddah to Jizan highway....

 (الليِّث) Al Qunfudhah
Al Qunfudhah
Al Qunfudhah is a coastal town in western Saudi Arabia. It is located at around .In 1976, LDS researcher Lynn Hilton identified Al Qunfudhah as a possible location for the site of Nahom, as described in the Book of Mormon; however, this theory has since been abandoned....

 (القنفذة) Al-Qusair
Al-Qusair
Al-Qusair is a city in Egypt. Approximately 5000 year old, it lies along the Red Sea...

 (القصير) Al Wajh
Al Wajh
Al Wajh is a coastal town in northwestern Saudi Arabia, on the coast of the Red Sea. It is located in Tabuk Province.Al Wajh is a comparatively small town whose citizens are mainly of Al Belawi, Al Huety, Al johani and Al Harby tribes and work on fishing.  It has close links with the city of Tabuk...

 (الوجه) Aqaba
Aqaba
Aqaba is a coastal city in the far south of Jordan, the capital of Aqaba Governorate at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. Aqaba is best known today as a diving and beach resort, but industrial activity remains important...

 (العقبة) Asseb (ዓሳብ) Dahab
Dahab
Dahab is a small town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, located approximately northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab is considered to be one of the Sinai's most treasured diving destinations...

 (دهب) Duba
Duba
Duba is a small city on the northern Red Sea coast, of Saudi Arabia. It is in Tabuk Province. Local citizens describe it as The Pearl of the Red Sea. Population: Population of Duba is about 65,000.-History:...

 (ضباء) Eilat (אילת)
El Gouna (الجونة) El Suweis
Suez
Suez is a seaport city in north-eastern Egypt, located on the north coast of the Gulf of Suez , near the southern terminus of the Suez Canal, having the same boundaries as Suez governorate. It has three harbors, Adabya, Ain Sokhna and Port Tawfiq, and extensive port facilities...

 (السويس)/  Hala'ib
Hala'ib
Hala'ib or Halayeb is a Red Sea port and town, located in the Hala'ib Triangle, a area disputed between Egypt and Sudan. The town lies on the southern tip of the Egyptian Red Sea Riviera and is near the ruins of medieval Aydhab...

 (حلايب) (disputed) Haql
Haql
Haql is a town in the northwest of Saudi Arabia near the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, adjacent to Aqaba across the Jordanian border.From Haql, the coasts of Egypt, Israel and Jordan can be seen....

 (حقل) Hirgigo (ሕርጊጎ) Hurghada
Hurghada
Hurghada is a city in the Red Sea Governorate of Egypt. It is a main tourist center and second largest city in Egypt located on the Red Sea coast.- Overview :...

 (الغردقة) Jeddah
Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

 (جدة) Jazan (جازان) Marsa Alam
Marsa Alam
Marsa Alam is a town in south-eastern Egypt, located on the western shore of the Red Sea. It is currently seeing fast increasing popularity as a tourist destination and development following the opening of Marsa Alam International Airport in 2001....

 (مرسى علم) Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 (ምጽዋ)
Nuweiba
Nuweiba
Nuweiba is a coastal town in the eastern part of Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. Located on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, it sits at around . It is believed by many to be the site of the Exodus account of ancient Israelites crossing the Red Sea.-Geography:...

 (نويبع) Port Safaga
Port Safaga
Port Safaga, also known as Bur Safaga and Safaga , is a town in Egypt, on the coast of the Red Sea, located south of Hurghada. This small port is also a tourist area that consists of several bungalows and rest houses, including the Safaga Hotel, with a capacity of 48 rooms .Having numerous...

 (ميناء سفاجا) Port Sudan
Port Sudan
Port Sudan is the capital of Red Sea State, Sudan; it has 489,725 residents . Located on the Red Sea, it is the Republic of Sudan's main port city.-History:...

  (بورت سودان) Rabigh
Rabigh
Rabigh is an ancient town on the western coast of Saudi Arabia . It is in Makkah Province. It used to be named "Al-Johfa" until the early years of the 17th century. In some ancient stories the town had been completely destroyed through a sea water...

 (رابغ) Sharm el Sheikh (شرم الشيخ) Soma Bay
Soma Bay
Soma Bay is a coastal resort on the Red Sea in Egypt, 45 km south of Hurghada International Airport. The ten million m², self-contained community of Soma Bay is a peninsula surrounded on all sides by the sea...

 (سوما باي) Suakin
Suakin
Suakin or Sawakin is a port in north-eastern Sudan, on the west coast of the Red Sea. In 1983 it had a population of 18,030 and the 2009 estimate is 43, 337.It was formerly the region's chief port, but is now secondary to Port Sudan, about 30 miles north. The old city built of coral is in ruins...

 (سواكن) Taba
Taba (Egypt)
Taba is a small Egyptian town near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Taba is the location of Egypt's busiest border crossing with neighboring Israel. Little more than a bus depot and a luxury hotel , Taba is a frequent vacation spot for Egyptians and tourists, especially those from Israel on...

 (طابا) Thuwal
Thuwal
Thuwal is a village belonging to the governorate of Jeddah in the Makkah Province of Saudi Arabia 80 kilometers north of Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea...

 (ثول) Yanbu (ينبع)

External links