IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd December, 2023 Geography


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  • Several shipping companies and a few liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers have decided to avoid the world’s main East-West trade route, following attacks launched by Yemen’s Houthi group on commercial ships at the southern end of the Red Sea.

About the Red Sea

  • The Red Sea, one of the world's saltiest bodies of water, is an entrance of the Indian Ocean located between Africa and Asia.
  • The basin is long and thin, stretching between the Mediterranean Sea to the northwest and the Indian Ocean to the southeast.
  • At its northern end, it divides into the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.
  • The Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb connects it to the Gulf of Aden and the outer Indian Ocean at its southern end.
  • It is surrounded by desert or semi-arid areas and receives no significant freshwater intake.
  • Six countries border the Red Sea: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti.

Why Red Sea is Red?

  • The Red Sea does not appear to be red at all. So, how did it obtain this name, and is it ever red?
  • One popular theory for the Red Sea's name is that it includes cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium erythraeum (a red-colored algae), which turns the normally blue-green water a reddish-brown colour.
  • Others say it is related to the way colours are typically used to refer to cardinal directions in Asiatic languages, with "red" referring to "south" and the Black Sea referring to "north."
  • You may notice a crimson hue in the water if you dive into the crimson Sea during a seasonal algae bloom.

Physical Characteristics

  • The Red Sea is located in a fault depression that separates two large pieces of the Earth's crust: Arabia and North Africa.
  • The ground inland from the coastal plains reaches heights of more than 6,560 feet above sea level on either side, with the highest land in the south.
  • The Red Sea divides into two portions at its northern end, the Gulf of Suez to the northwest and the Gulf of Aqaba to the northeast.
  • The Gulf of Suez is shallow (180 to 210 feet deep) and surrounded by a vast coastal plain. In contrast, the Gulf of Aqaba is surrounded by a small plain and reaches a depth of 5,500 feet.


  • The Red Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet for several reasons.
  • Low precipitation and high evaporation;
  • There are no notable rivers or streams that flow into the sea, and
  • It has a limited southern link to the Gulf of Aden, an arm of the Indian Ocean.
  • Its salinity ranges between 36 in the south and 41 in the north, around the Gulf of Suez, with an average of 40. (The average salinity of the world's saltwater is 35 on the Practical Salinity Scale, or PSU; this corresponds to 3.5% of actual dissolved salts).


  • The Red Sea's unique environments sustain a diverse range of marine life, including sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, and numerous rare fish species.
  • Coral reefs are most abundant along the northern and central coasts, and their abundance decreases as coastal waters grow murkier.
  • The Egyptian government recognized the area's unique biodiversity when it established the Ras Mohammed National Park in 1983. The rules and regulations governing this area safeguard native marine life, which has become a key lure for diving aficionados.

Economic factors

  • The Red Sea region has five important types of mineral resources: petroleum deposits, evaporite deposits (sediments formed by evaporation, such as halite, sylvite, gypsum, and dolomite), sulphur, phosphates, and heavy-metal deposits.
  • Navigation - The Red Sea is a vital commerce waterway connecting Europe and Asia (via the Suez Canal).
  • Tourism - The water is well-known for its recreational diving locations.


  • The Red Sea receives very little precipitation.
  • Excess evaporation occurs due to a lack of rainfall and a lack of a major source of freshwater to the Red Sea.
  • Summer temperatures are substantially higher, and humidity levels are relatively high.
  • The Red Sea climate is the product of two monsoon seasons, namely the northeasterly and south-westerly monsoons.
  • Nearly 15% of Red Sea fishes are endemic, placing the Red Sea among the world's top regions for high fish endemism.

Significance of Red Sea

  • The Red Sea, which stretches from Egypt's Suez Canal to the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait that separates the Arabian Peninsula from Africa, is still an important commercial route for world shipping and energy supplies.


What role does the Red Sea play in the global commerce routes and marine geography of the world? Discuss about its strategic significance and the Red Sea's bordering nations.