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The Red Sea: a colourful history

Les couleurs de la Mer Rouge

Prepare to be amazed

The Red Sea is an intercontinental sea separating Africa from the Middle East that has intrigued and fascinated humans since ancient times. Its name is rather curious given its waters are not red, but it reflects the fact the vivid colours are what strike every visitor when they contemplate this vast and legendary expanse of water and its surroundings.

Visiting the Red Sea: majestic yet simple landscapes

On the northern shores of the Red Sea, at the end of the Gulf of Aqaba, lies the city of Aqaba, Jordan’s only port and the gateway to the inland region’s unparalleled ochre landscapes, which give way to the intense red of Wadi Rum. With a wealth of geological and petroglyphic curiosities dating back over 10,000 years, this open-air film set is a favourite of Hollywood directors and was explored by T. E. Lawrence in his day. Further north lies Petra, a Nabatean city that became iconic when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt became the first westerner to rediscover it in 1812. Half-built, half-carved into the orange, red, pink and golden sandstone cliffs, the unique buildings feature strong Greek influences.

Les couleurs de la Mer Rouge

Further south, on the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea, lies Safaga, a small port of striking contrasts, where expanses of sandy desert meet surprising black sand beaches. It is the perfect starting point to explore mythical Egypt, a land of desert, dunes and Bedouins. Even further south, bright green plants flourish around the Nile, contrasting with the beige desert. Welcome to Luxor. The site of ancient Thebes, the royal capital of the Pharoah’s dynasties during the New Kingdom, is within easy reach of Safaga. The monumental complexes of Luxor are some of the largest bequeathed to us by our ancient ancestors and captivate all who set foot among these venerable ruins. It is impossible to stay stony-faced opposite the sheer enormity of the Karnak Temple Complex or the Valley of the Kings necropolis.

Flourishing waters and seabed

A holiday on and around the Red Sea is also an opportunity to admire breathtaking blues. First, of course, there are the clear and cloudless skies as the region enjoys bright sunshine all year round. But the colour of the waters is even more impressive: a rich and inviting deep blue-green. On the beaches of Aqaba or its Israeli cousin Eilat and along the sandbanks facing the port of Safaga, the turquoise waters offer a taste of paradise. The very salty water of the Red Sea is denser than other seawater, allowing you to float without a care in the world while enjoying the generous year-round sunshine.

Les couleurs de la Mer Rouge

But the climax of the show is underwater. The depths of the Red Sea combine the most vibrant colours to treat scuba divers to unforgettable experiences. Even with just a snorkel and mask, you can explore the underwater wonders along the Aqaba coastline, teeming with schools of multicoloured fish and reefs. One must-see curiosity is a sunken WWII tank near the coast, just 5 metres below the surface. Some of the best diving sites in the Red Sea can be found in Egypt off the coast of Safaga, including Panorama Reef and Abu Kefan, which are home to thriving coral reefs and multicoloured marine animals. And for a final flourish, meet some of their more placid residents: sea turtles.

Photos credits : © Istock / ©istock-Angelo D’Amico / © istock-Maxlevoyou / ©istock-mihtiander

Tourisme : Nouvelle-Calédonie, vue rapprochée sur le lagon turquoise avec l'île du pin en arrière plan

Be charmed by the many facets of the Red Sea

Set sail with PONANT on a cruise to take in deserts, pyramids, temples, the Valley of the Kings and emerald waters

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