Gulf of Aqaba

Gulf of Aqaba

[ah-kuh-buh, ak-uh-]
Aqaba, Gulf of, northeastern arm of the Red Sea, 118 mi (190 km) long and 10 to 15 mi (16.1 to 24.1 km) wide, between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas; a part of the Great Rift Valley. The gulf, which is entered through the Straits of Tiran, has played a major role in the tensions and wars between Israel and the Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) bordering it. Aqaba, with the Israeli port of Elat at its head, was Israel's only accessible waterway to E Africa, Asia, and Australia when Egypt closed the Suez Canal between 1967 to 1975. The Gulf of Aqaba was blockaded by the Arabs from 1949 to 1956 and again in 1967, despite the fact that it was declared (1958) an international waterway by the United Nations. In the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel occupied the Sinai and hence strategic points along the Straits of Tiran to insure open passage of its shipping. As a result of the Camp David accords of 1978, and the ensuing Egypt-Israel peace treaty (1979), Israel withdrew from its positions on the Straits of Tiran. The Gulf of Aqaba played a major role in the Iran-Iraq War throughout the 1980s, when it became a vital supply port for Iraq via Jordan. Later, with the imposition of international sanctions against Iraq and the ensuing Persian Gulf War (1991), the Gulf of Aqaba served as an important blockade point for coalition forces against goods bound for Iraq.

The Gulf of Aqaba (Arabic: خليج العقبة; transliterated: Khalyj al-'Aqabah), in Israel known as the Gulf of Eilat (Hebrew: מפרץ אילת, transliterated: Mifratz Eilat) is a large gulf of the Red Sea. It is located to the east of the Sinai peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland. Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have coastlines on the Gulf of Aqaba.

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

Geologically, the Gulf of Aqaba is an integral part of the Great Rift Valley that runs from East Africa through the Red Sea and northwards towards the rift valley containing the Dead Sea.

Amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt claimed to have discovered evidence that the Gulf of Aqaba was the body of water crossed by Moses during the Passage of the Red Sea as told in the Book of Exodus. He based this on the fact that Egyptian chariots wheels were found 2/3 of the way up the gulf deep in the water. No recognised Egyptologists have backed up this fact as of yet. A shallow "land bridge" spans the gulf near Nuweiba, which is reputed by some of Wyatt's school of thought to be the site of the Passage of the Red Sea.

Colin Humphreys, University of Cambridge Scientist, has also concluded that the crossing of the Red Sea described in Exodus 14 took place at the Gulf of Aquaba.

An Egyptian naval blockade against all Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran (the southern opening of this gulf) was the immediate cause of the 1967 Six Day War.

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