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The Red Sea was created some 40 - 50 million years ago with the movement of the Arabian tectonic plate from the landmass of Africa. The Red Sea is a body of water that effectively separates Africa from Asia. It is connected to the rest of the world’s oceans at its most southern point and artificially connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal. At various times in its geological history it has been totally disconnected from the main oceans when the sea level has fallen.
That said, in more recent times the Red Sea has been an important trade route. Its importance declined with the discovery of an all-water route around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa in 1498. However, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 made the Red Sea one of the chief shipping routes connecting Europe with Asia and Australasia. The closing of the canal after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the building of pipelines to the Mediterranean Sea, and the construction of super-tankers too large for the canal diminished the sea's importance as a commercial artery, especially for petroleum.
In 1975, however, the Suez Canal was re-opened and enlarged, and traffic through the sea increased once again.
The Red Sea covers an area of 440,300 sq km. It lies between Africa (Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea) and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia and Yemen) and is a part of the Great Rift Valley system. The Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez are the sea's northern arms; lying between them is the Sinai Peninsula.
The straits of Bab el Mandeb link the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. The flat coastal plains of the Red Sea slope gradually to the submarine central trough, more than 2,134 m deep.
The main ports on the Red Sea and its northern arms are Suez (Egypt), Eilat (Israel), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Hodeida (Yemen), Massawa (Eritrea) and Port Sudan (Sudan)
The Red Sea reefs are abundant in colourful and varied reef life; with reef profiles ranging from sheer, undercut cliffs to gently undulating coral gardens. To date, some 1248 fish species have been identified in the Red Sea but this number continues to increase as new species are discovered and recorded. Of the current classified species, some 17% are believed to be endemic to the Red Sea.
Reef life commonly seen in the Red Sea includes Parrotfish, Anthias fish, Butterflyfish, Lionfish among hundreds of others. Invertebrate species such as octopus, cuttlefish and squid are also commonly encountered. There are several varieties of eel, too. In some seasons, often the summer months, when the water is warmer or in areas where there are strong currents bringing in plankton for the smaller fish to feed on, which in turn are consumed by pelagic fish such as Barracuda and Jacks, many shark species can be seen including: Black and White Tip Reef Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks and Hammerheads. Other marine species such as hawksbill turtles and even dolphins are also frequently sighted
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