Red Sea, Arabic Al-Baḥr Al-Aḥmar , narrow strip of water extending southeastward from Suez, Egypt, for about 1,200 miles (1,930 km) to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects with the Gulf of Aden and thence with the Arabian Sea. Geologically, the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba (Elat) must be considered as the northern extension of the same structure. The sea separates the coasts of Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea to the west from those of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to the east. Its maximum width is 190 miles, its greatest depth 9,974 feet (3,040 metres), and its area approximately 174,000 square miles (450,000 square km).
The Red Sea is one of the first large bodies of water mentioned in recorded history. It was important in early Egyptian maritime commerce (2000 bce) and was used as a water route to India by about 1000 bce. It is believed that it was reasonably well-charted by 1500 bce, because at that time Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt sailed its length. Later the Phoenicians explored its shores during their circumnavigatory exploration of Africa in about 600 bce. Shallow canals were dug between the Nile and the Red Sea before the 1st century ce but were later abandoned. A deep canal between the Mediterranean and Red seas was first suggested about 800 ce by the caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd, but it was not until 1869 that the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps oversaw the completion of the Suez Canal connecting the two seas.
The Red Sea was subject to substantial scientific research in the 20th century, particularly since World War II. Notable cruises included those of the Swedish research vessel Albatross (1948) and the American Glomar Challenger (1972). In addition to studying the sea’s chemical and biological properties, researchers focused considerable attention on understanding its geologic structure. Much of the geologic study was in conjunction with oil exploration.
Red Sea is an extension (or inlet) of the Indian Ocean, located between Africa and Asia.Entrance to the sea in the south is through the Gulf of Aden and the somewhat narrow Bab el Mandeb (strait).
In the north the sea is accessed from Middle Eastern countries via the Gulf of Aqaba The Mediterranean Sea provides a conduit south through the Suez Canal and Gulf of Suez.
This salty sea is just over 190 miles (300 km) across at its widest point, and about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) in length.
There’s a measured maximum depth of 8,200 feet (2,500 m), and an estimated average depth of 1,640 feet (500 m). Much of the immediate shoreline is quite shallow.
Regardless, the consistent sunshine, as well as white sand beaches, pristine coral reefs and a scattering of shipwrecks are currently major attractions for scuba divers and sun worshipers. Resorts like Sharm al-Sheikh and others in Egypt’s “Red Sea Riviera” along the Gulf of Aqaba and Gulf of Suez are fast becoming major tourist destinations.
Do You Know?
Gebel Katarina, the highest mountain in Egypt, rises to an impressive 2,624 metres tall – and yet the depths of the Red Sea could easily swallow it whole.
The Red Sea lies in a fault depression that separates two great blocks of Earth’s crust—Arabia and North Africa. The land on either side, inland from the coastal plains, reaches heights of more than 6,560 feet above sea level, with the highest land in the south.
History Of The Red Sea
The Red Sea is considered a relatively new sea, whose development probably resembles that of the Atlantic Ocean in its early stages. The Red Sea’s trough apparently formed in at least two complex phases of land motion. The movement of Africa away from Arabia began about 55 million years ago. The Gulf of Suez opened up about 30 million years ago, and the northern part of the Red Sea about 20 million years ago. The second phase began about 3 to 4 million years ago, creating the trough in the Gulf of Aqaba and also in the southern half of the Red Sea valley.
Geologically, it started to develop when the plates of Arabia and East Africa shifted away from each other and eventually broke apart, around 20-30 million years ago.
However, the Red Sea itself is a relatively recent opening, making it one of the youngest oceanic zones on earth. The waters of the Red Sea flow through the slender Bab-el-Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden in the south to connect to the Indian Ocean. In the north, the Red Sea splits into two – turning into the Gulf of Aqaba in the east, and Gulf of Suez to the west, where it trickles through the manmade Suez Canal to only just join the Mediterranean Sea.
Although the Red Sea is more than 2,800 metres at its deepest, there are points where it is quite shallow – in fact, around 40% of its area sits under 100 metres, while 25% is even shallower at less than 50 metres.
The points where the Red Sea is deeper than 1000 metres consists of around 15%.
A shelf break, which is where the continental shelf falls away and turns into a continental slope, is marked with coral reefs, while the continental slope itself is stepped and irregular
The Red Sea has tantalised travellers for years with its impressive marine environment; home to colourful corals and rich acquatic life, and surrounded by seaside beaches with shady palms.