Red Sea

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WorldMediterraneanSuez CanalGulf of AdenRed Sea
Red Sea
18°13.761'N, 040°52.148'E Chart icon.png
lat=18.229351 | lon=40.869141 | zoom=4 | y

The Red Sea is a salt water inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and South Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb sound and the Gulf of Aden. In the north are the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal). The Red Sea is a Global 200 ecoregion. The Red Sea was also historically known as the Arabian Gulf, although recently Pan-Arabist nationalists sought to change the Persian Gulf's name to the Arabian Gulf.

Occupying a part of the Great Rift Valley, the Red Sea has a surface area of about 438,000 km² (169,100 square miles ). It is roughly 2250 km (1398 mi) long and, at its widest point at 355 km (220.6 miles) 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 feet ), but there are also extensive shallow shelves, noted for their marine life and corals. The sea is the habitat of over 1,000 invertebrate species and 200 soft and hard corals and is the world's northernmost tropical sea.

The sea is known for its spectacular recreational diving sites, such as Ras Mohammed, SS Thistlegorm (shipwreck), Elphinstone, The Brothers, Dolphin Reef and Rocky Island in Egypt and less known sites in Sudan such as Sanganeb, Abington, Angarosh and Shaab Rumi.

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

Tourism in the South of Red Sea is presently considered risky because of the presence of pirates originating from uncontrolled zones of Somalia. Large vessels such as cargoes are sometimes attacked by high-speed boats heavily armed. The situation is even worse in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen.

Countries (with ports) bordering the Red Sea

Also see

Red Sea Ports and Popular Stops

See each country listed above.

Navigation Charts for sailing in the Red Sea

Charts required?

Red Sea Navigation Notes


Red Sea Climate and Weather

The climate 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 salinity 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). 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 storms. 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.

Salinity: The Red Sea is one of the most saline water bodies in the world, due to the effects of the water circulation pattern, resulting from evaporation and wind stress. Salinity ranges between 3.6 and 3.8%.

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.

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 mostly by wind. In 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 north-northeast current along the Saudi coast is 8-29 cm/s (3–11.4 in/s).

Winds: With the exception of the northern part of the Red Sea, which 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 the influence of regular and seasonally reversible winds. The wind regime is characterized by both seasonal and regional variations in speed and direction with average speed generally increasing northward.

Weather forecast resources:

Red Sea Sailing Passages


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