The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean and lies between Africa and Asia. It connects to the ocean to the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. To the north is the Sinai Peninsula, the gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez (which leads to the Suez Canal).
The Red Sea is about 1398 miles long and 220 miles wide at its widest point and includes the town’s of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada. It is the northernmost tropical sea. Its extensive shallow shelves are noted for their marine life and corals, and it is home to over 1000 invertebrate species and 200 soft and hard corals. The rich diverse ecosystem of the Red Sea means that more than 1200 species of fish have been recorded here of which around 10% are not found anywhere else in the world.
There are around 2,000 kilometres of coral reef extending along the coastline of the Red Sea, and many are many thousands of years old. The reefs form platforms and lagoons along the coast which are visited by pelagic species of Red Sea fish including some of the 44 species of shark that can be found in this region. As well as the reefs along the coastline, there are also many offshore reefs and the biodiversity here is recognised by the Egyptian government who regulate and govern the area protecting the local marine life.
The name – the Red Sea has a variety of hypothesis for where it came from. It may come from the seasonal blocks of the red coloured Trichodesmium erythraeum near the surface of the water, or possibly it may refer to the direction south as Black (in Black Sea) may refer to the North – the basis of this theory is that some of the Asiatic languages use colours to refer to directions. A third possibility is that it borders the Egyptian desert which the ancient Egyptians referred to as Dashret meaning ‘Red Land’.
The earliest known people to explore the Red Sea were the ancient Egyptians who established commercial routes across the waters locally. The earliest recorded of these appears to be in around 2500 BC. Later on, the Red Sea was favoured for Romans trading with India, and when the Roman empire gained control over the Mediterranean this route grew to be popular for a time. Today the existence of the Suez canal helps populate this region with travellers.
The climate of the Red Sea is due to monsoon seasons – one north easterly and the other south westerly. The very high surface temperatures here combined with high salt levels makes this one of the warmest and saltiest bodies of seawater on the planet. The rainfall on the Red Sea and its surrounding coasts is very low – just 60mm per year and generally takes the forms of short showers with thunderstorms and sometimes dust storms.
The Red Sea first formed when Arabia split from Africa due to movement of the Red Sea Rift. In fact, the sea is still widening and it’s believed that it will eventually become an ocean. Surface water temperatures in the Red Sea today are around 21-25 degrees C.