Kaleidoscopic coral, a dizzying array of marine life and warm temperatures throughout the year make the Red Sea a much sought-after destination for tourists. Whether you want to explore its hidden depths or stay close to the surface, here are 10 fun facts to keep in mind when visiting Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
1. The mystery of a name
There are several competing theories surrounding the origin of the Red Sea’s colorful name. One popular suggestion gives credit to the seasonal blooms of a type of alga, which make the normally crystal-clear water appear a deep orange-red. However, some speculate that it could also stem from the nearby red-tinged mountain range called Harei Edom, or from the Egyptian desert, which was once known as “red land.”
2. A vital trade route
This body of water has been used for commerce since ancient Egyptian times. After the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal, cutting through Egypt to link the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, transport between Europe and Asia became significantly easier. Today this passage remains one of the world’s most important trade routes.
3. Year round sunshine
The Red Sea is warm enough to visit throughout the year, with an average water temperature of 66°F, even in December and January. This goes up to an 84°F average in the summer months, making the sea’s shallow parts as warm as bath water.
4. The perfect diving spots
It’s no wonder that the Red Sea is a major hot spot for scuba diving and snorkelingwhen you consider the rich variety of its underwater ecosystem. It is home to more than 1,200 species of fish, including 44 species of sharks. Nearly 20% of these are found only in the Red Sea. Divers can swim with brightly colored angelfish, butterflyfish and clownfish.
5. The world’s fastest fish
The world’s fastest fish lives in the Red Sea. The solitary sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 68 miles per hour.
6. Colorful coral reefs
This thriving biodiversity is largely due to the sea’s coral reef ecosystem, which stretches for 1,240 miles along the coastline. These reefs are up to 7,000 years old in parts, and many are protected by the Egyptian government as part of Ras Mohammed National Park.
7. Filled with health benefits
The Red Sea is approximately 35% saltier than most other seas, which gives it unique health benefits. The saline concentration is believed to improve blood circulation. The sandy beaches located are also contain trace minerals and black sand, which can be used to treat skin inflammations, rheumatism and arthritis.
8. Floating on the surface
Like the Dead Sea, the Red Sea is easy for people to float in because of the high saline concentration.
9. Lost shipwrecks
You won’t see just fish when you go diving in the Red Sea – you’ll also spot remnants of the sea’s past in the form of ghostly shipwrecks. The most famous among them is the SS Thistlegorm, a British steamship that was sunk by German bombers during World War II, but you’ll also find tugboats, cargo ships and tankers down in the depths.
10. Ever-changing seascapes
New islands formed in the Red Sea as recently as 2011 and 2013, named Sholan and Jadid respectively. Volcanic eruptions along the Zubair Archipelago continue to change the landscape of this intriguing body of water.
The Red Sea is shrouded in mystery from its unique healing properties to the carnival of colorful marine life that decorate its waters.