How Did the Red Sea Get Its Name?
The Red Sea is a narrow body of water that is almost closed in by land. It separates the Arabian Peninsula and the northeast coast of Africa. Normally a blue-green color, the Red Sea was so named because of occasional color changes caused by sea plants called “algae.” It could be from the red-hued “sea sawdust,” a type of bacteria that grows near the water’s surface.
At certain times of the year, the algae die off and give the water a reddish-brown tint. The waters of the Red Sea are very hot and salty, and are surrounded by hot, humid lands. The story of Moses leading the Children of Israel across the Red Sea is one of the best-known Bible stories.
Some historians believe the Red Sea is named for the Himyarites, a group who once lived along its shores. Others believe that the “red” in Red Sea is actually a designator of the Sea’s location relative to the ancient Mediterranean world – to the South. In ancient languages, the colors black, red, green, and white referred to North, South, East, and West, respectively.
Wherever the name comes from, visitors to the Red Sea today can take advantage of fantastic snorkeling – more than 1200 species of fish have been found in the coral reef ecosystem of the Red Sea; more than 100 of these have not been located in any other body of water.