Gulf of Aqaba

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Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Suez map.jpg
The Sinai Peninsula with the Gulf of Aqaba to the east and the Gulf of Suez to the west
Location Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa
Type Gulf
Primary inflows Red Sea
Basin countries Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia
Max. length 160 km (99 mi)
Max. width 24 km (15 mi)
Max. depth 1,850 m (6,070 ft)

The Gulf of Aqaba or Gulf of Eilat (Arabic: خليج العقبة‎, transliterated: Khalyj al-'Aqabah; Hebrew: מפרץ אילת‎, transliterated: Mifratz Eilat) is a large gulf located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland. Its coastline is divided between four countries: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.


The Sinai Peninsula separating the Gulf of Suez to the west/left and the Gulf of Aqaba, to the east/right.

The Gulf is located to the east of the Sinai Peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland. This and the Gulf of Suez are the two gulfs extending from the northern portion of the Red Sea; the Gulf of Aqaba is east of the Gulf of Suez. Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have coastlines on the Gulf. It reaches a maximum depth of 1,850 m in its central area (the Gulf of Suez is significantly wider but less than 100 m deep).

The Gulf of Aqaba measures 24 kilometres (15 mi) at its widest point and stretches some 160 kilometres (99 mi) north from the Straits of Tiran to a point where the border of Israel meets the borders of Egypt and Jordan.

The city of Aqaba is the largest on the gulf
Coral World Underwater Observatory at Eilat

The Gulf of Aqaba, like the coastal waters of the Red Sea, is one of the world's premier sites for diving. The area is especially rich in coral and other marine biodiversity and contains a number of underwater wrecks, some accidental shipwrecks, others vessels deliberately sunk in an effort to provide a habitat for marine organisms and bolster the local dive tourism industry.


Eilat beach

At this northern end of the Gulf are three important cities: Taba in Egypt, Eilat in Israel, and Aqaba in Jordan. All three cities serve both as strategically important commercial ports and as popular resort destinations for tourists seeking to enjoy the warm climate of the region. Further south, Haql is the largest Saudi Arabian city on the gulf. On Sinai, Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab are the major centers.

The largest population center on the Gulf of Aqaba is Aqaba, with a population of 108,000 inhabitants (2009), followed by Eilat with a population of 48,000 (2009).


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the Gulf of Aqaba as "A line running from Ràs al Fasma Southwesterly to Requin Island (27°57′N 34°36′E / 27.950°N 34.600°E / 27.950; 34.600) through Tiran Island to the Southwest point thereof and thence Westward on a parallel (27°54'N) to the coast of the Sinaï Peninsula".[1]


The Gulf of Aqaba is one of two gulfs created by the Sinai Peninsula's bifurcation of the northern Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez lying to the west of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gulf of Aqaba lying to its east. Geologically, the Gulf of Aqaba forms the southern end of the Dead Sea Transform. The gulf contains three small pull apart basins, the Elat Deep, Aragonese Deep and Dakar Deep, formed between four left lateral strike-slip fault segments. Movement on one of these faults caused the 1995 Gulf of Aqaba earthquake.[2]


"Isle of Graia Gulf of Akabah Arabia Petraea", 1839 lithograph of a trade caravan by Louis Haghe from an original by David Roberts.
A resort on the Gulf of Aqaba

Trade across the Red Sea between Thebes port of Elim and Elat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba is documented as early as the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt. Red Sea expeditions crossing the Red Sea and heading south to Punt are mentioned in the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, the Sixth dynasty of Egypt, the Eleventh dynasty of Egypt, the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt and the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt when Hatshepsut built a fleet to support the trade and journeyed south to Punt herself in a six-month voyage.[citation needed] Thebes used Nubian gold or Nub from her conquests south into Kush to facilitate the purchase of Frankincense, Myrrh, Bitumen, Natron, Juniper oil, Linen, and Copper amulets for the mummification industry at Karnak. Egyptian settlements near Timnah at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba date to the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.

At the northern edge, the ancient city of Ayla (in present-day Aqaba) constituted a commercial hub for the Nabateans, the Romans later built the Via Traiana Nova route that met with the King's Highway in Aqaba, that connected Africa to Asia and the Levant and the Red Sea shipping.

The port of Aqaba was a major Ottoman port on the red sea, connected to Damascus and Medina by the Hejaz railway. During World War I, the Battle of Aqaba was the key battle that ended a 500-year Ottoman rule over Greater Syria.

The Marine Twilight Zone Research and Exploration program (MTRX) was set up in 2003 by the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences of Eilat to conduct research on the deep coral reef systems of the northern Red Sea.[3]


Red Sea coral and marine fish

The Gulf of Aqaba is one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. About 250,000 dives are performed annually in Eilat's 11 km Gulf of Aqaba coastline, and diving represents 10% of the tourism income of this area.[4]

The Landscape of Wadi Rum to the east of the northern edge of the gulf is also a popular destination. Other touristic destinations are the ruins of the iron-age civilization of Ayla in the city of Aqaba, which was also the site of the historic Battle of Aqaba, a World War I battle, led by Lawrence of Arabia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Klinger, Yann; Rivera, Luis; Haessler, Henri; Maurin, Jean-Christophe (August 1999). "Active Faulting in the Gulf of Aqaba: New Knowledge from the Mw 7.3 Earthquake of 22 November 1995". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (Seismological Society of America) 89 (4): 1025–1036 
  3. ^ Ben-Shaprut, O; Goodman-Tchernov, B (2009). "Exploring the 'Marine Twilight Zone' in the Gulf of Eilat, Red Sea, Israel". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL: AAUS; 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-16. 
  4. ^ Artificial Reefs and Dive Tourism in Eilat, Israel Dan Wilhelmsson, Marcus C. Öhman , Henrik Ståhl and Yechiam Shlesinger Ambio, Vol. 27, No. 8, Building Capacity for Coastal Management (Dec., 1998), pp. 764-766 Published by: Allen Press on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences [1]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°45′N 34°45′E / 28.750°N 34.750°E / 28.750; 34.750