Red Sea, an arm of the Indian Ocean and a major shipping route. It lies between the Arabian Peninsula and Africa, in one of the hottest, driest regions on earth. The Red Sea has an area of roughly 169,000 square miles (438,000 km 2 ), about that of California. Length is about 1,200 miles (1,930 km); width, as much as 230 miles (370 km).
The only natural entrance to the Red Sea is the Bab el Mandeb, a strategically important, narrow strait in the south, which connects with the Gulf of Aden. In the north, the sea divides into two narrow arms that flank the Sinai Peninsula. They are the Gulf of Suez, which is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal, and the Gulf of Aqaba. The water of the Red Sea is quite salty—considerably more so than the water found in the oceans.
Coral reefs, with abundant and varied marine life, fringe most coastal areas. There are also numerous islands, especially in the south. The largest groups are the Dahlak Archipelago and the Farasan Islands.
Although much of the sea is shallow, the central part contains a deep depression for its entire length—part of the Great Rift Valley. The deepest point is 8,645 feet (2,635 m) below sea level. There are rich mineral deposits in the depression. Petroleum is produced in the sea's northernmost coastal area.
The Red Sea has been a shipping route since ancient times. For many centuries it was primarily of local importance, used mainly by Arab dhows. It attained major international importance after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Among the cities and ports on the Red Sea, including the two northern gulfs, are Suez, Egypt; Eilat, Israel; Jidda, Saudi Arabia; Massawa, Eritrea; and Port Sudan, Sudan.
The Red Sea is associated with the Biblical story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. ( )