Gulf of Aden

Gulf of Aden

Gulf of Aden
Location Arabian Sea
Coordinates 12°N 48°E / 12°N 48°E / 12; 48Coordinates: 12°N 48°E / 12°N 48°E / 12; 48
Type Gulf
Average depth 500 m (1,600 ft)
Max. depth 2,700 m (8,900 ft)
Max. temperature 28°C
Min. temperature 15°C

The Gulf of Aden (Arabic: خليج عدن Ḫalīǧ ʻAdan, Somali: Gacanka Cadmeed) is a gulf located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is more than 20 miles wide. It shares its name with the port city of Aden in Yemen, which forms the northern shore of the gulf. Historically the Gulf of Aden was known as "The Gulf of Berbera", named after the ancient Somali port city of Berbera on the south side of the gulf.[1][2] However, as the city of Aden grew during the colonial era, the name of "Gulf of Aden" was popularised.

The waterway is part of the important Suez canal shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean with 21,000 ships crossing the gulf annually.[3]


The name of the Gulf was inspired by the former British Crown Colony city of Aden, now part of Yemen. The Somali names are Gacanka Cadmeed or Gacanka Saylac.



The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Gulf of Aden as follows:[4]

On the Northwest – The southern limit of the Red Sea [A line joining Husn Murad (12°40′N 43°30′E / 12.667°N 43.500°E / 12.667; 43.500) and Ras Siyyan (12°29′N 43°20′E / 12.483°N 43.333°E / 12.483; 43.333)].
On the East – The meridian of Cape Guardafui (Ras Asir, 51°16'E).


The temperature of the Gulf of Aden varies between 15 °C (59 °F) and 28 °C (82 °F), depending on the season and the appearance of monsoons. The salinity of the gulf at 10 metres (33 ft) depth varies from 35.3 along the eastern Somali coast to as high as 37.3 ‰ in the gulf's center,[5] while the oxygen content in the Gulf of Aden at the same depth is typically between 4.0 and 5.0 mg/L.[5]

Commerce and trade

A dhow in the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf of Aden is a vital waterway for shipping, especially for Persian Gulf oil, making it an integral waterway in the world economy.[6] Approximately 11 percent of the world's seaborne petroleum passes through the Gulf of Aden on its way to the Suez Canal or to regional refineries.[7] The main ports along the gulf are Aden in Yemen, Djibouti City in Djibouti, and Zeila and Berbera in Somaliland and Bosaso in Somalia.

In earlier history, the city of Crater, located just south of the modern city of Aden, was an important port in regional trade. Crater was the principal harbor of the pre-Islamic kingdom of Awsan, and after its annexation by the kingdom of Saba at the end of the 5th century, played a significant role in connecting Africa with Arabia.

In the late 2000s, the gulf evolved into a hub of pirate activity. By 2013, attacks in the waters had steadily declined due to active private security and international navy patrols.[8] India receives USD 50 billion in imports and sends USD 60 billion in exports through this area annually. Because of this and for the sake of protecting the trade of other countries, India keeps a warship escort in this area.[9]

Also see Piracy in Gulf of Aden.


A geologically young body of water, the Gulf of Aden has a unique biodiversity that contains many varieties of fish, coral, seabirds and invertebrates. This rich ecological diversity has benefited from a relative lack of pollution during the history of human habitation around the gulf. However, environmental groups fear that the lack of a coordinated effort to control pollution may jeopardize the gulf's ecosphere.[10] Whales, dolphins, and dugongs[11] were once common[12] before being severely reduced by commercial hunts, including by mass illegal hunts by Soviet Union and Japan in 1960s to 70s.[13] Critically endangered Arabian humpback whales were used to be seen in large numbers,[14] and only a few of large whales still occur in the gulf waters such as bryde's whales,[15] blue whales,[16] and toothed whales inhabiting deep-seas such as sperm whales[17] and less known tropical bottlenose whales.[18]

Bordering countries

Towns and cities

Towns and cities on the Gulf of Aden coast:

See also


Space Station photograph of the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa


  1. Dumper, Stanley, Michael, Bruce E. Cities of The Middle East and North Africa: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC CLIO, Google Books. p. 90.
  2. Houtsma, M. Th. First encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936. Google Books. p. 364.
  3. "Pirates fire on US cruise ship in hijack attempt: Yahoo! News". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  4. "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  5. 1 2 "Hydrographic Survey Results". Report on Cruise No. 3 of R/V "Dr. Fridtjof Nansen." - Indian Ocean Fishery and Development Programme - Pelagic Fish Assessment Survey North Arabian Sea. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). 1975. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  6. "Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil". European Space Agency. 2005-03-01. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  7. "Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden" (PDF). International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF). 2003. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  8. Arnsdorf, Isaac (22 July 2013). "West Africa Pirates Seen Threatening Oil and Shipping". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  9. Gokhale, Nitin (2011). "India Takes Fight to Pirates". The Diplomat. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  10. "Red Sea & Gulf of Aden". United Nations Environment Programme. 2005. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  11. Nasr D.. Dugongs in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
  12. Hoath R.. 2009. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. pp.112. The American University in Cairo Press. Retrieved on February 26. 2016
  13. Jackson J.. 2006. Diving with Giants. pp.59. New Holland Publishers Ltd. Retrieved on December 17. 2014
  18. Anderson, R. C.; Clark, R.; Madsen, P. T.; Johnson, C.; Kiszka, J.; Breysse, O. (2006). "Observations of Longman's Beaked Whale (Indopacetus pacificus) in the Western Indian Ocean". Aq. Mamm. 32 (2): 223–231. doi:10.1578/AM.32.2.2006.223.

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