Red Sea

Last updated

Red Sea
Empty Coast in Farasan Island.jpg
Red Sea coast seen from Farasan Islands
Red Sea topographic map-en.jpg
Location North Africa, East Africa, and West Asia
Coordinates 22°N38°E / 22°N 38°E / 22; 38
Type Sea
Primary inflows Barka River, Haddas River, Anseba River, Wadi Gasus
Primary outflows Bab el Mandeb
Basin  countries Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Israel, and Jordan
Max. length2,250 km (1,400 mi)
Max. width355 km (221 mi)
Surface area438,000 km2 (169,000 sq mi)
Average depth490 m (1,610 ft)
Max. depth3,040 m (9,970 ft)
Water volume233,000 km3 (56,000 cu mi)

The Red Sea is a sea inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. Its connection to the ocean is in the south, through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. To its north lie the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal). It is underlain by the Red Sea Rift, which is part of the Great Rift Valley.


The Red Sea has a surface area of roughly 438,000 km2 (169,000 sq mi), [1] is about 2,250 km (1,400 mi) long, and — at its widest point — 355 km (221 mi) wide. It has an average depth of 490 m (1,610 ft), and in the central Suakin Trough it reaches its maximum depth of 3,040 m (9,970 ft). [2]

Approximately 40% of the Red Sea is quite shallow (less than 100 m (330 ft) deep), and about 25% is less than 50 m (164 ft) deep.[ not verified in body ] The extensive shallow shelves are noted for their marine life and corals. More than 1,000 invertebrate species and 200 types of soft and hard coral live in the sea. The Red Sea is the world's northernmost tropical sea, and has been designated a Global 200 ecoregion.


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Red Sea as follows: [3]

On the North. The Southern limits of the Gulfs of Suez [A line running from Ràs Muhammed (27°43'N) to the South point of Shadwan Island (34°02'E) and thence Westward on a parallel (27°27'N) to the coast of Africa] and Aqaba [A line running from Ràs al Fasma Southwesterly to Requin Island ( 27°57′N34°36′E / 27.950°N 34.600°E / 27.950; 34.600 ) through Tiran Island to the Southwest point thereof and thence Westward on a parallel (27°54'N) to the coast of the Sinai Peninsula]. On the South. A line joining Husn Murad ( 12°40′N43°30′E / 12.667°N 43.500°E / 12.667; 43.500 ) and Ras Siyyan ( 12°29′N43°20′E / 12.483°N 43.333°E / 12.483; 43.333 ).

Exclusive economic zone

Exclusive economic zones in Red Sea: [4]

NumberCountryArea (Km2)
1Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia 186,392
2Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan 92,513
3Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt 91,279
4Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea 78,383
5Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen 35,861
6Flag of Djibouti.svg  Djibouti 7,037
TotalRed Sea491,465

Note: Hala'ib Triangle disputed between Sudan and Egypt and calculated for both.


Tihama on the Red Sea near Khaukha, Yemen Tihama on the Red Sea near Khaukha, Yemen.jpg
Tihama on the Red Sea near Khaukha, Yemen

Red Sea has names in many languages (Modern Arabic : البحر الأحمر, romanized: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval Arabic: بحر القلزم, romanized: Baḥr al-Qulzum; Biblical Hebrew : יַם-סוּף, romanized:  Yam Sūp̄ or Hebrew : הַיָּם הָאָדוֹם, romanized: hayYām hāʾĀḏōm; Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ Phiom Enhah or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ Phiom ǹšari; Amarigna: ቀይ ባሕሪ Qey Bahr; Sidama language: Duumo Baara; Tigrinya: ቀይሕ ባሕሪ Qeyih Bahri; Somali : Badda Cas; Afar: "Qasa Bad" Afaan oromo:Galaana Diimaa). Red Sea is a direct translation of the Ancient Greek Erythra Thalassa (Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα). The sea itself was once referred to as the Erythraean Sea by Europeans. As well as Mare Rubrum in Latin (alternatively Sinus Arabicus, literally "Arabian Gulf"), the Romans called it Pontus Herculis (Sea of Hercules). [5] Other designations include the Arabic : البحر الأحمر, romanized: Al-Baḥr Al-Aḥmar (alternatively بحر القلزمBaḥr Al-Qulzum, literally "the Sea of Clysma"), the Coptic ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ̀ⲛϣⲁⲣⲓ Phiom ̀nšari, Syriac ܝܡܐ ܣܘܡܩܐ Yammāʾ summāqā, Somali Badda cas and Tigrinya Qeyyiḥ bāḥrī (ቀይሕ ባሕሪ). The name of the sea may signify the seasonal blooms of the red-coloured Trichodesmium erythraeum near the water's surface. [6] A theory favored by some modern scholars is that the name red is referring to the direction south, just as the Black Sea'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. [7] Herodotus on one occasion uses Red Sea and Southern Sea interchangeably. [8]

The name in Hebrew Yam Suph (Hebrew : ים סוף, lit. 'Sea of Reeds') is of biblical origin. The name in Coptic : ⲫⲓⲟⲙ `ⲛϩⲁϩPhiom Enhah ("Sea of Hah") is connected to Ancient Egyptian root ḥ-ḥ which refers to water and sea (for example the names of the Ogdoad gods Heh and Hauhet). [9]

Historically, it was also known to western geographers as Mare Mecca (Sea of Mecca), and Sinus Arabicus (Gulf of Arabia). [10] Some ancient geographers called the Red Sea the Arabian Gulf [11] or Gulf of Arabia. [12]

The association of the Red Sea with the biblical account of the Israelites 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 BC. In that version, the Yam Suph (Hebrew : ים סוף, lit. 'Sea of Reeds') is translated as Erythra Thalassa (Red Sea).

The Red Sea is one of four seas named in English after common color terms – the others being the Black Sea, the White Sea and the Yellow Sea. The direct rendition of the Greek Erythra thalassa in Latin as Mare Erythraeum refers to the north-western part of the Indian Ocean, and also to a region on Mars.


Ancient era

Ancient Egyptian expedition to the Land of Punt on the Red Sea coast during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut C+B-Ship-Fig1-HatshepsuSailingBoat.PNG
Ancient Egyptian expedition to the Land of Punt on the Red Sea coast during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut

The earliest known exploration of the Red Sea was conducted by ancient Egyptians, as they attempted to establish commercial routes to Punt. One such expedition took place around 2500 BC, and another around 1500 BC (by Hatshepsut). Both involved long voyages down the Red Sea. [13]

The biblical Book of Exodus tells the account of the Israelites' crossing of the sea, which the Hebrew text calls Yam Suph (Hebrew : יַם סוּף). Yam Suph was traditionally identified as the Red Sea. Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882‒942), in his Judeo-Arabic translation of the Pentateuch, identifies the crossing place of the Red Sea as Baḥar al-Qulzum, meaning the Gulf of Suez. [14]

Settlements and commercial centres in the vicinity of the Red Sea involved in the spice trade, as described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea Periplous of the Erythraean Sea.svg
Settlements and commercial centres in the vicinity of the Red Sea involved in the spice trade, as described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea

In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great, who was a prominent ruler of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia, undertook significant efforts to improve and extend navigation in the Red Sea. He sent reconnaissance missions to explore the Red Sea area and to identify its various navigational hazards, such as rocks and currents. This effort was significant, as it contributed to safer and more efficient navigation routes. [15]

In addition to the maritime explorations, during the reign of Darius the Great, a canal was constructed linking the Nile River to the northern end of the Red Sea at Suez. This canal is sometimes referred to as the ancient Suez Canal. It played a pivotal role in improving trade and communication between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea, and beyond to the Indian Ocean. This canal was a predecessor to the modern Suez Canal, which was constructed in the 19th century and continues to be one of the world's most important waterways. [16]

The construction of the canal during Darius's reign is evidenced by ancient records, including inscriptions. Darius commemorated the completion of the canal by creating stelae (stone monuments) with inscriptions in several languages, describing the construction and its benefits. The canal not only facilitated trade but also solidified Darius's control over Egypt and enhanced the Achaemenid Empire's economic and political power in the region.

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 collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea ("Periplus of the Red Sea"), a Greek periplus written by an unknown author around the 1st century, contains a detailed description of the Red Sea's ports and sea routes. [17] The Periplus also describes how Hippalus first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India.

The Red Sea was favored for Roman trade with India starting with the reign of Augustus, when the Roman Empire gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt, 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 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 around the 3rd century AD. [18] From antiquity until the 20th-century, the Red Sea was also a trade route of the Red Sea slave trade from Africa to the Middle East. [19]

Middle Ages and modern era

During the Middle Ages, the Red Sea was an important part of the spice trade route. In 1183, Raynald of Châtillon launched a raid down the Red Sea to attack the Muslim pilgrim convoys to Mecca. [20] The possibility that Raynald's fleet might sack the holy cities of Mecca and Medina caused fury throughout the Muslim world. [21] However, it appears that Reynald's target were the lightly armed Muslim pilgrim convoys rather the well guarded cities of Mecca and Medina, and the belief in the Muslim world that Reynald was seeking to sack the holy cities was due to the proximity of those cities to the areas that Raynald raided. [22]

In 1513, trying to secure that channel to Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque laid siege to Aden [23] but was forced to retreat. They cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, as the first fleet from Europe in modern times to have sailed these waters. Later in 1524 the city was delivered to Governor Heitor da Silveira as an agreement for protection from the Ottomans. [24] In 1798, France ordered General Napoleon to invade Egypt and take control of the Red Sea. Although he failed in his mission, the engineer Jean-Baptiste Lepère, who took part in it, revitalised the plan for a canal which had been envisaged during the reign of the Pharaohs. 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, but none lasted for long. The Suez Canal was opened in November 1869. During the first half of the 20th-century, the Red Sea slave trade attracted substantional international condemnation.

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 to piracy.[ citation needed ]

Iranian-backed Yemini Houthis have attacked Western ships, including warships, during the 2023-2024 Israel-Hamas war. One ship was hijacked and taken back to Yemen. [25]


Annotated view of the Nile and Red Sea, with a dust storm, viewed from the International Space Station ISS036-E-011050.jpg
Annotated view of the Nile and Red Sea, with a dust storm, viewed from the International Space Station
This video over the south-eastern Mediterranean Sea and down the coastline of the Red Sea was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station.

The Red Sea is between arid land, desert and semi-desert. Reef systems are better developed along the Red Sea mainly because of its greater depths and an efficient water circulation pattern. The Red Sea water mass-exchanges its water with the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden. These physical factors reduce the effect of high salinity caused by evaporation in the north and relatively hot water in the south. [27]

The climate of the Red Sea is the result of two monsoon seasons: a northeasterly monsoon and a southwesterly monsoon. Monsoon winds occur because of differential heating between the land and the sea. Very high surface temperatures and high salinities make this one of the warmest 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). Temperature and visibility remain good to around 200 m (660 ft). The sea is known for its strong winds and unpredictable local currents.[ citation needed ]

The rainfall over the Red Sea and its coasts is extremely low, averaging 60 mm (2.36 in) per year. The rain is mostly short showers, often with thunderstorms and occasionally with dust storms. The scarcity of rainfall and no major source of fresh water to the Red Sea result in excess evaporation as high as 2,050 mm (81 in) per year and high salinity with minimal seasonal variation. A recent[ when? ] underwater expedition to the Red Sea offshore from Sudan and Eritrea [28] [ verification needed ] found surface water temperatures 28  °C (82  °F ) in winter and up to 34  °C (93  °F ) in the summer, but despite that extreme heat, the coral was healthy with much fish life with very little sign of coral bleaching, with only 9% infected by Thalassomonas loyana , the 'white plague' agent. Favia favus coral there harbours a virus, BA3, which kills T. loyana. [29] Scientists are investigating the unique properties of these coral and their commensal algae to see if they can be used to salvage bleached coral elsewhere. [30]


The Red Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, owing to high evaporation and low precipitation; no significant rivers or streams drain into the sea, and its southern connection to the Gulf of Aden, an arm of the Indian Ocean, is narrow. [31] Its salinity ranges from between ~36  in the southern part and 41 ‰ in the northern part around the Gulf of Suez, with an average of 40 ‰. (Average salinity for the world's seawater is ~35 ‰ on the Practical Salinity Scale, or PSU; that translates to 3.5% of actual dissolved salts). [32]

Tidal range

In general, tide ranges between 0.6 m (2.0 ft) in the north, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez and 0.9 m (3.0 ft) in the south near the Gulf of Aden, but it fluctuates between 0.20 m (0.66 ft) and 0.30 m (0.98 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 sabkhas as a thin sheet of water up to a few hundred metres rather than flooding 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 northeast 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 (3–7 ft/s). Coral reefs in the Red Sea are near Egypt, Eritrea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.[ citation needed ]


Detailed information regarding current data is lacking, partially because the currents are weak and both spatially and temporally variable. The variation of temporal and spatial currents is as low as 0.5 m (1.6 ft)[ clarification needed ] and are governed all by wind. During the summer, northwesterly 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 north end of the Red Sea. Generally, the velocity of the tidal current is 50–60 cm/s (20–24 in/s) with a maximum of 1 m/s (3.3 ft/s) 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 in/s).[ citation needed ]

Wind regime

The north part of the Red Sea is dominated by persistent north-west winds, 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 are subjected to regular and seasonally reversible winds. The wind regime is characterized by seasonal and regional variations in speed and direction with average speed generally increasing northward. [33]

Wind is the driving force in the Red Sea to transport material as suspension or as bedload. Wind-induced currents play an important role in the Red Sea in resuspending bottom sediments and transferring materials from sites of dumping to sites of burial in quiescent environment of deposition. Wind-generated current measurement 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.[ clarify ] [34]


Dust storm over the Red Sea Dust red sea.jpg
Dust storm over the Red Sea

The Red Sea was formed by the Arabian peninsula being split from the Horn of Africa by movement of the Red Sea Rift. This split started in the Eocene and accelerated during the Oligocene. The sea is still widening (in 2005, following a three-week period of tectonic activity it had grown by 8 m [26 ft]), [35] and it is considered that it 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. Lake Asal in Djibouti is eligible as an experimental site to study the evolution of the deep hot brines of the Red Sea. [36] By observing the strontium isotope composition of the Red Sea brines, it is possible to deduce how these salt waters found at the bottom of the Red Sea could have evolved in a similar way to Lake Asal, which ideally represents their compositional extreme. [36] The high salinity of the waters was not hospitable to living organisms. [37] [ failed verification ]

Sometime during the Tertiary period, the Bab el Mandeb closed and the Red Sea evaporated to an empty hot dry salt-floored sink. Effects causing this would have been:

A number of volcanic islands rise from the center of the sea. Most are dormant. However, in 2007, Jabal al-Tair island in the Bab el Mandeb strait erupted violently. Two new islands were formed in 2011 and 2013 in the Zubair Archipelago, a small chain of islands owned by Yemen. The first island, Sholan Island, emerged in an eruption in December 2011, the second island, Jadid, emerged in September 2013. [38] [39] [40]

Oil and gas

Undiscovered oil reserves in the region have been estimated at 5,041 MMBO. Undiscovered gas reserves in the region have been estimated at 112,349 BCFG. Undiscovered natural gas reserves have been estimated at 3,077 MMBNGL. [41] Most of these plays are controlled by the structure of the basin. [42] Normal faults are common as the Red Sea occupies an active diverging margin. These targets are commonly found below the Salt deposits of the middle Miocene.

Modern development is focused on the following fields. The Durwara 2 Field was discovered in 1963, while the Suakin 1 Field and the Bashayer 1A Field were discovered in 1976, on the Egyptian side of the Red Sea. The Barqan Field was discovered in 1969, and the Midyan Field in 1992, both within the Midyan Basin on the Saudi Arabian side of the Red Sea. The 20-m thick Middle Miocene Maqna Formation is an oil source rock in the basin. Oil seeps occur near the Farasan Islands, the Dahlak Archipelago, along the coast of Eritrea, and in the southeastern Red Sea along the coasts of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. [43]

Mineral resources

Red Sea coast in Taba, Egypt Red sea stony beach taba egypt.jpg
Red Sea coast in Taba, Egypt

In terms of mineral resources the major constituents of the Red Sea sediments are as follows:

Nanofossils, foraminifera, pteropods, siliceous fossils
Tuffites, volcanic ash, montmorillonite, cristobalite, zeolites
Quartz, feldspars, rock fragments, mica, heavy minerals, clay minerals
Sulfide minerals, aragonite, calcite, protodolomite, dolomite, quartz, chalcedony.
Magnesite, gypsum, anhydrite, halite, polyhalite
Fe-montmorillonite, goethite, hematite, siderite, rhodochrosite, pyrite, sphalerite, anhydrite.


Hawksbill sea turtle in the Elphinstone Reef Hawksbill turtle at Elphinstone Reef, Red Sea, Egypt (35150034493).jpg
Hawksbill sea turtle in the Elphinstone Reef
Nudibranch egg ribbon at Shaab Mahmoud Nudibranch egg ribbon at Shaab Mahmoud.JPG
Nudibranch egg ribbon at Shaab Mahmoud

The Red Sea is a rich and diverse ecosystem. More than 1200 species of fish [44] have been recorded in the Red Sea, and around 10% of these are found nowhere else. [45] This also includes 42 species of deepwater fish. [44]

Red Sea coral and marine fish Red sea coral reef.jpg
Red Sea coral and marine fish

The rich diversity is in part due to the 2,000 km (1,240 mi) of coral reef extending along its coastline; these fringing reefs are 5000–7000 years old and are largely formed of stony acropora and porites corals. The reefs form platforms and sometimes lagoons along the coast and occasional other features such as cylinders (such as the Blue Hole (Red Sea) at Dahab). These coastal reefs are also visited by pelagic species of Red Sea fish, including some of the 44 species of shark. Other marine habitats include sea grass beds, salt pans, mangrove and salt marsh.

It contains 175 species of nudibranch, many of which are only found in the Red Sea. [46]

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 of the area is recognized by the Egyptian 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 enthusiasts.

Divers and snorkellers should be aware that although most Red Sea species are innocuous, a few are hazardous to humans. [47] [ page needed ]

The U.N. is working to mitigate the threat from the FSO Safer, a derelict oil tanker off the coast of Yemen that could possibly cause an enormous ecological disaster in the Red Sea. [48]

The brine pools Red Sea have been extensive studied in terms of their microbial life. The Red Sea brine pool microbiology is characterized by its diversity and adaptation to extreme environments.

Desalination plants

There is extensive demand for desalinated water to meet the needs 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 and treatment chemicals (chlorine and anti-scalants) that bleach and kill corals and cause diseases in the fish. This is only localized, but it may intensify with time and profoundly impact the fishing industry. [49]


The Red Sea serves an important role in the global economy, with cargo vessels traveling between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea every year, thus shortening the path between Asia and Europe almost by half (as compared to traveling around Africa via the Atlantic Ocean). [50] 12% of global trade passes through the Red Sea. [51] This includes 30% of global container traffic. [51]


Hotels in Eilat, Israel Elath Eilat Israel Strand Hotel datafox.jpg
Hotels in Eilat, Israel

The sea is known for its recreational diving sites, such as Ras Mohammed, SS Thistlegorm (shipwreck), Elphinstone Reef, The Brothers, Daedalus Reef, St. John's Reef, Rocky Island in Egypt [52] and less known sites in Sudan such as Sanganeb, Abington, Angarosh and Shaab Rumi.

The Red Sea became a popular destination for diving after the expeditions of Hans Hass in the 1950s, and later by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. [53] Popular tourist resorts include El Gouna, Hurghada, Safaga, Marsa Alam, on the west shore of the Red Sea, and Sharm-el-Sheikh, Dahab, and Taba on the Egyptian side of Sinaï, as well as Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel in an area known as the Red Sea Riviera.

The popular tourist beach of Sharm el-Sheikh was closed to all swimming in December 2010 due to several serious shark attacks, including a fatality. 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 offshore for shark-photo opportunities, and reports of ships throwing dead livestock overboard. The sea's narrowness, significant depth, and sharp drop-offs, all 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. The Red Sea Project is building highest quality accommodation and a wide range of facilities on the coast line in Saudi Arabia. This will allow people to visit the coastline of the Red Sea by the end of 2022 but will be fully finished by 2030. [54]

Tourism to the region has been threatened by occasional terrorist attacks, and by incidents related to food safety standards. [55] [56]


The Red Sea is part of the sea roads between Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia, and as such has heavy shipping traffic. Government-related bodies with responsibility to police the Red Sea area include the Port Said Port Authority, Suez Canal Authority and Red Sea Ports Authority of Egypt, Jordan Maritime Authority, Israel Port Authority, Saudi Ports Authority and Sea Ports Corporation of Sudan.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have increased attacks on shipping vessels since mid-November 2023. The blocking of Israeli-linked ships was in response to Israel's war on Gaza. [51] In January 2024, it was reported that Red Sea shipping volumes have dropped to 30% of normal levels due to Houthi intervention. [57] In response, the US has announced a maritime coalition to defend shipping in the Red Sea for the Operation Prosperity Guardian. [51] In January 2024, US and British forces undertook dozens of air and sea strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. US President Joe Biden reportedly authorized strikes, despite not having congressional approval. [58]

Bordering countries

A four color map of the Red Sea and its bordering countries Red Sea map.svg
A four color map of the Red Sea and its 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:

The Gulf of Suez is entirely bordered by Egypt. The Gulf of Aqaba borders Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the standard geographical definition of the six countries bordering the Red Sea cited above, areas such as Somalia 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 them. [59] [60]

Towns and cities

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

See also


    Related Research Articles

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Arabian Sea</span> Marginal sea of the northern Indian Ocean

    The Arabian Sea is a region of sea in the northern Indian Ocean, bounded on the west by the Arabian Peninsula, Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel, on the northwest by Gulf of Oman and Iran, on the north by Pakistan, on the east by India, and on the southeast by the Laccadive Sea and the Maldives, on the southwest by Somalia. Its total area is 3,862,000 km2 (1,491,000 sq mi) and its maximum depth is 4,652 meters (15,262 ft). The Gulf of Aden in the west connects the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea through the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Oman is in the northwest, connecting it to the Persian Gulf.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Persian Gulf</span> Arm of the Indian Ocean in West Asia

    The Persian Gulf, sometimes called the Arabian Gulf, is a mediterranean sea in West Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. It is connected to the Gulf of Oman in the east by the Strait of Hormuz. The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Saudi Arabia</span>

    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a country situated in West Asia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Its extensive coastlines provide great leverage on shipping through the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal. The kingdom occupies 80% of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of the country's boundaries with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and the Republic of Yemen are undefined, so the exact size of the country remains unknown. The Saudi government estimate is at 2,217,949 square kilometres, while other reputable estimates vary between 2,149,690 and 2,240,000 sq. kilometres. Less than 7% of the total area is suitable for cultivation, and in the early 1960s, population distribution varied greatly among the towns of the eastern and western coastal areas, the densely populated interior oases, and the vast, almost empty deserts.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Aden</span> Port city and temporary capital of Yemen

    Aden is a port city located in Yemen in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula, positioned near the eastern approach to the Red Sea. It is situated approximately 170 km east of the Bab-el-Mandeb strait and north of the Gulf of Aden. With its strategic location on the coastline, Aden serves as a gateway between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, making it a crucial maritime hub connecting Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. As of 2023, Aden City has a population of approximately 1,080,000 residents, making it one of the largest cities in Yemen.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Arabian Peninsula</span> Peninsula in West Asia

    The Arabian Peninsula, or Arabia, is a peninsula in West Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At 3,237,500 km2 (1,250,000 sq mi), the Arabian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in the world.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Gulf of Aden</span> Gulf between the Horn of Africa and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula

    The Gulf of Aden is a deepwater gulf of the Indian Ocean between Yemen to the north, the Arabian Sea to the east, Djibouti to the west, and the Guardafui Channel, Socotra and Somalia to the south. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, and it connects with the Arabian Sea to the east. To the west, it narrows into the Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti. The Aden Ridge lies along the middle of the Gulf and is causing it to widen about 15mm per year.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Straits of Tiran</span> Narrow sea passages between Egypt and Saudi Arabia

    The Straits of Tiran are the narrow sea passages between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas that connect the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. The distance between the two peninsulas is about 13 km. The Multinational Force and Observers monitors the compliance of Egypt in maintaining freedom of navigation of the straits, as provided under the Egypt–Israel peace treaty.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Gulf of Suez</span> Gulf of the Red Sea separating African Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula

    The Gulf of Suez is a gulf at the northern end of the Red Sea, to the west of the Sinai Peninsula. Situated to the east of the Sinai Peninsula is the smaller Gulf of Aqaba. The gulf was formed within a relatively young but now inactive Gulf of Suez Rift rift basin, dating back about 26 million years. It stretches some 300 kilometres (190 mi) north by northwest, terminating at the Egyptian city of Suez and the entrance to the Suez Canal. Along the mid-line of the gulf is the boundary between Africa and Asia. The entrance of the gulf lies atop the mature Gemsa oil and gas field. The gulf is considered one of the world's important maritime zones due to being an entrance to the Suez Canal.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Gulf of Aqaba</span> Large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea

    The Gulf of Aqaba or Gulf of Eilat is a large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula and west of the Arabian Peninsula. Its coastline is divided among four countries: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The northernmost coral reef in the world is situated near the Eilat shore.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">West Asia</span> Subregion of the Asian continent

    West Asia, also called Western Asia or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost region of Asia. As defined by most academics, UN bodies and other institutions, the subregion consists of Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Armenian highlands, the Levant, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and the southern part of the Caucasus Region (Transcaucasia). The region is separated from Africa by the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt, and separated from Europe by the waterways of the Turkish Straits and the watershed of the Greater Caucasus. Central Asia lies to its northeast, while South Asia lies to its east. Twelve seas surround the region (clockwise): the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Suez, and the Mediterranean Sea. The area contains the vast majority of the similarly defined Middle East, but excluding most of Egypt and the northwestern part of Turkey, and including the southern part of the Caucasus.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Perim</span> A volcanic island in the Strait of Mandeb

    Perim, also called Mayyun in Arabic, is a volcanic island in the Strait of Mandeb at the south entrance into the Red Sea, off the south-west coast of Yemen and belonging to Yemen. It administratively belongs to Dhubab District or Bab al-Mandab District, Taiz Governorate. The island of Perim divides the strait of Mandeb into two channels.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Ras Muhammad National Park</span> Egyptian national park in South Sinai

    Ras Muhammad is a national park in Egypt at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf of Suez on the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The park is becoming a center of eco-tourism in the region.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Moresby</span> Captain of the East India Company (1794–1854)

    Robert Moresby was a captain of the East India Company's Bombay Marine/Indian Navy who distinguished himself as a hydrographer, maritime surveyor and draughtsman.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Sanafir Island</span> Island in Saudi Arabia

    Sanafir Island is a Saudi island in the Straits of Tiran east of Tiran Island. It is about 33 km2 (13 sq mi) it is located at the entrance to the Straits of Tiran, which separates the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea. The island is about 2.5 km from Tiran Island. The island are characterized by floating coral reefs.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Sooty gull</span> Species of bird

    The sooty gull is a species of gull in the family Laridae, also known as the Aden gull or Hemprich's gull. It is found in Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Maldives, Mozambique, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. As is the case with many gulls, it has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus. The sooty gull is named in honour of the German naturalist Wilhelm Hemprich who died in 1825 while on a scientific expedition to Egypt and the Middle East with his friend Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Ottoman–Portuguese conflicts (1538–1560)</span> Series of military encounters between the Portuguese and Ottoman Empires

    The Ottoman-Portuguese conflicts were a period of conflict during the Ottoman–Portuguese confrontations and series of armed military encounters between the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire along with regional allies in and along the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Rusty parrotfish</span> Species of fish

    The rusty parrotfish is a species of marine ray-finned fish, a parrotfish belonging to the family Scaridae. It is associated with reefs in the north western Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

    The 1995 Gulf of Aqaba earthquake occurred on November 22 at 06:15 local time and registered 7.3 on the Mw scale. The epicenter was located in the central segment of the Gulf of Aqaba, the narrow body of water that separates Egypt's Sinai Peninsula from the western border of Saudi Arabia. At least 8 people were killed and 30 were injured in the meizoseismal area.

    The wildlife of Yemen is substantial and varied. Yemen is a large country in the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula with several geographic regions, each with a diversity of plants and animals adapted to their own particular habitats. As well as high mountains and deserts, there is a coastal plain and long coastline. The country has links with Europe and Asia, and the continent of Africa is close at hand. The flora and fauna have influences from all these regions and the country also serves as a staging post for migratory birds.

    <i>Scarus fuscopurpureus</i> Species of fish

    Scarus fuscopurpureus, common name purple-brown parrotfish, is a species of marine ray-finned fish, belonging to the class Actinopterygii. It is a parrotfish in the family Scaridae. It occurs in the western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the gulf of Aden and the Persain Gulf. Countries in which boarder these waters include, but are not limited to Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.


    1. "State of the Marine Environment Report for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden: 2006" (PDF). 16 June 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 April 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
    2. Dinwiddie, Robert (2008). Thomas, Louise (ed.). Ocean: The World's Last Wilderness Revealed. London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 452. ISBN   978-0-7566-2205-3.
    3. "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
    4. "Sea Around Us | Fisheries, Ecosystems and Biodiversity". Archived from the original on 23 February 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
    5. Phillips, Carl; Villeneuve, François; Facey, William (2004). "A Latin inscription from South Arabia". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. 34: 239–250. ISSN   0308-8421. JSTOR   41223821. Archived from the original on 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023 via JSTOR.
    6. "Red Sea | sea, Middle East". Encyclopedia Britannica Online Library Edition. Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 23 January 2023. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
    7. "How the Red Sea Got its Name". Archived from the original on 26 September 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
    8. Schmitt, Rüdiger (1996). "Considerations on the Name of the Black Sea". Hellas und der griechische Osten. Saarbrücken: 219–224.
    9. Vycichl, Werner (1983). Dictionnaire Etymologique de La Langue Copte. Leuven: Peeters. p. 320.
    10. "Arabia". World Digital Library. Archived from the original on 5 June 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
    11. Michael D. Oblath (2004). The Exodus itinerary sites: their locations from the perspective of the biblical sources. Peter Lang. p. 53. ISBN   978-0-8204-6716-0. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
    12. Hill, Andrew E.; Walton, John H. (2009). A survey of the Old Testament (3 ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan. p. 32. doi:10.1525/9780520943728-073. ISBN   978-0-310-28095-8. S2CID   242765347.
    13. Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe (2006). Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. W.W. Norton & Company. p.  24. ISBN   978-0-393-06259-5.
    14. Tafsir, Saadia Gaon, s.v. Exodus 15:22, et al.
    15. "Darius' Red Sea Canal Stele | cabinet". Archived from the original on 16 July 2023. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
    16. Colburn, Henry (2021). "King Darius' Red Sea Canal". FEZANA Journal. 35 (4): 27–30. Archived from the original on 16 July 2023. Retrieved 8 June 2023.
    17. Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe (2006). Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration. W.W. Norton & Company. pp.  32–33. ISBN   978-0-393-06259-5.
    18. East, W. Gordon (1965). The Geography behind History. W.W. Norton & Company. pp.  174–175. ISBN   978-0-393-00419-9.
    19. The Palgrave Handbook of Global Slavery Throughout History. (2023). Tyskland: Springer International Publishing.
    20. Mallett, Alex (2008). "A Trip down the Red Sea with Reynald of Châtillon". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 18 (2): 143–144. ISSN   1356-1863. JSTOR   27755928. Archived from the original on 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
    21. Mallett, Alex (2008). "A Trip down the Red Sea with Reynald of Châtillon". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 18 (2): 146–147. ISSN   1356-1863. JSTOR   27755928. Archived from the original on 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
    22. Mallett, Alex (2008). "A Trip down the Red Sea with Reynald of Châtillon". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 18 (2): 152–153. ISSN   1356-1863. JSTOR   27755928. Archived from the original on 2 June 2023. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
    23. Newitt, M. D. D. (2005). A history of Portuguese overseas expansion, 1400–1668. London: New York Routledge. p. 87. ISBN   978-0-415-23979-0.
    24. Mathew, K. M. (1988). History of the Portuguese Navigation in India, 1497–1600. Mittal Publications. ISBN   978-81-7099-046-8. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
    25. Sabbagh, Dan (10 January 2024). "Houthis call west's bluff with renewed Red Sea drone assault". The Guardian.
    26. "Egyptian Dust Plume, Red Sea". 8 July 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
    27. Sofianos, Sarantis S.; Johns, William E. (2002). "An Oceanic General Circulation Model (OGCM) investigation of the Red Sea circulation, 1. Exchange between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean". Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 107 (C11): 3196. Bibcode:2002JGRC..107.3196S. doi: 10.1029/2001JC001184 .
    28. BBC 2 television program "Oceans 3/8 The Red Sea", 8 pm–9 pm Wednesday 26 November 2008
    29. "Virus power harnessed to protect Red Sea coral". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 23 April 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
    30. Fitzgerald, Sunny (8 April 2020). "The super-corals of the Red Sea". BBC Future. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
    31. Por, F. D. (6 December 2012). The Legacy of Tethys: An Aquatic Biogeography of the Levant. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN   978-94-009-0937-3. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
    32. Hanauer, Eric (1988). The Egyptian Red Sea: A Diver's Guide. Aqua Quest Publications, Inc. ISBN   978-0-922769-04-9. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
    33. Patzert, William C. (1 February 1974). "Wind-induced reversal in Red Sea circulation". Deep Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts. 21 (2): 109–121. Bibcode:1974DSRA...21..109P. doi:10.1016/0011-7471(74)90068-0. ISSN   0011-7471.
    34. Morcos, S. A. (1970). "Physical and chemical oceanography of the Red Sea". Oceanography and Marine Biology Annual Review.
    35. Rose, Paul; Laking, Anne (2008). Oceans: Exploring the hidden depths of the underwater world. London: BBC Books. ISBN   978-1-84-607505-6.
    36. 1 2 Boschetti, Tiziano; Awaleh, Mohamed Osman; Barbieri, Maurizio (2018). "Waters from the Djiboutian Afar: a review of strontium isotopic composition and a comparison with Ethiopian waters and Red Sea brines". Water. 10 (11): 1700. doi: 10.3390/w10111700 . hdl: 11573/1202448 .
    37. Degens, Egon T.; Ross, David A., eds. (1969). Hot Brines and Recent Heavy Metal Deposits in the Red Sea. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-662-28603-6. ISBN   978-3-662-27120-9. Archived from the original on 1 January 2024. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
    38. "MSN – Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, Breaking News, and Latest Videos". NBC News. 28 December 2011. Archived from the original on 10 February 2023. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
    39. Israel, Brett (28 December 2011). "New Island Rises in the Red Sea". Archived from the original on 28 January 2022. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
    40. Oskin, Becky; (30 May 2015). "Red Sea Parts for 2 New Islands". Scientific American. Archived from the original on 3 August 2015. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
    41. Schenk, Christopher. World Petroleum Resources Project Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and ... Archived 7 January 2023 at the Wayback Machine .
    42. Dolson, John C.; Shann, Mark V.; Matbouly, Sayed I.; Hammouda, Hussein; Rashed, Rashed M. (2001). "Egypt in the Twenty-First Century: Petroleum Potential in Offshore Trends". GeoArabia. 6 (2): 211–230. Bibcode:2001GeoAr...6..211D. doi: 10.2113/geoarabia0602211 . S2CID   221322448.
    43. Lindquist, Sandra (1998). The Red Sea Province: Sudr-Nubia(!) and Maqna(!) Petroleum Systems, USGS Open File Report 99-50-A. US Dept. of the Interior. pp. 6–7, 9.
    44. 1 2 Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (2009). "FishBase". Archived from the original on 17 December 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
    45. Siliotti, A. (2002). Verona, Geodia (ed.). Fishes of the red sea. Geodia Edizioni Internazionali. ISBN   978-88-87177-42-8.
    46. Yonow, Nathalie (2012). "Nature's Best-Dressed". Saudi Aramco World. Vol. 63, no. 4. Aramco Services Company. pp. 2–9. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
    47. Lieske, Ewald; Myers, Robert F.; Fiedler, Klaus E. (2004). Coral reef guide: Red Sea to Gulf of Aden, South Oman. London: Collins. ISBN   978-0-00-715986-4.
    48. "UN buys huge ship to avert catastrophic oil spill off Yemen". BBC News. 9 March 2023. Archived from the original on 9 March 2023. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
    49. Mabrook, Badr (1 August 1994). "Environmental impact of waste brine disposal of desalination plants, Red Sea, Egypt". Desalination. Proceedings of the IDA and WRPC World Conference On Desalination and Water Treatment. 97 (1): 453–465. Bibcode:1994Desal..97..453M. doi:10.1016/0011-9164(94)00108-1. ISSN   0011-9164. Archived from the original on 1 January 2024. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
    50. Rodrigue, Jean-Paul (1 November 2017). "Geographical Impacts of the Suez and Panama Canals". New York: Hofstra University. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
    51. 1 2 3 4 Yerushalmy, Jonathan (20 December 2023). "Red Sea crisis explained: what is happening and what does it mean for global trade?". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2024.
    52. "Scuba Diving in Egypt – Red Sea – Dive The World Vacations". Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
    53. Philippe Cousteau Jnr (23 April 2010). Jacques Cousteau's underworld village in the Red Sea. BBC Earth. Archived from the original on 27 June 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
    54. "Saudi Arabia's 'The Red Sea Project' breaks ground on coastal village". Al Arabiya English. 20 April 2020. Archived from the original on 9 December 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
    55. Walsh, Declan; Karasz, Palko (24 August 2018). "Hundreds of Tourists Evacuated From Hotel in Egypt After Britons' Sudden Death". The New York Times . Archived from the original on 25 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
    56. Regev, Dana (15 July 2017). "Egypt's tourism industry suffers a critical blow". DW. Archived from the original on 16 July 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
    57. "The Middle East faces economic chaos". The Economist. ISSN   0013-0613 . Retrieved 21 January 2024.
    58. Fazeli, Yaghoub (16 January 2024). "Iran's Khamenei praises Houthis' Red Sea attacks, hopes they will continue". Alarabiya News. Retrieved 16 January 2024.
    59. Barth, Hans-Jörg (2002). Sabkha ecosystems, Volume 2. Springer. p. 148. ISBN   978-1-4020-0504-6.
    60. Makinda, Samuel M. (1987). Superpower diplomacy in the Horn of Africa. Routledge. p. 37. ISBN   978-0-7099-4662-5.

    Further reading