The Red Sea

The Red Sea was created by the division of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula around 30 million years ago. It is connected in the north to the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, and in the south to the Indian Ocean through Bab al Mandab and the Gulf of Aden. The Red Sea is about 1900 km long and over 300km at its widest and has a maximum depth of 2,500 m. On average it is 500 m deep. The average temperature of the Red Sea is 22C though it can reach 34C in summer. The Red Sea is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Yemen. Its maritime history goes back to ancient Egyptian times.

The name of the Red Sea is thought to come either from the seasonal blooms of the red-colored plant near the water surface or from Egypt’s mineral-rich red hills.

The coast has a variety of habitats including inter-tidal flats, coastal lagoons, mangroves, sabkha, spring-fed marshes, sea grass beds and coral reefs. Coastal waters are rich in fish and crustaceans that support an important commercial fishing industry. The sea’s water is warm and clear and is ideal for the growth of coral. The sea is home to about 110 species of soft corals, 120 species of hard corals and over 1000 species of fish. Sting and manta rays, clown, angel, butterfly and lionfish, and occasionally turtles, eels, sea cows, and dolphins are spotted amid the coral reefs. Some animals, such as the Dugong and Green Turtle and the Leatherback, are only seen in inshore waters along the coast.

The sea is known for its spectacular dive sites such as
Ras Mohammed, The Brothers and Rocky Island in Egypt, and sites in Sudan such as Sanganeb, Angarosh and Shaab Rumi. Thousands of marine creatures from the smallest species to huge fish and mammals coexist here; the coral reefs form an elaborate system of caves, lagoons, gardens, and shelves in some places, then plunge dramatically thousands of feet to the ocean floor.

The Red Sea is vital to the surrounding coastal towns. The water goes through desalination plants and is then used in homes and industries. It is used in large quantities by oil refineries and cement works along the coastline.

Threats to the Red Sea come from pollution cargo vessels, oil tankers, fishing boats, and passenger liners which all move their trade across it. Other threats come from depletion of the water table by overuse of groundwater for irrigation projects.