Published Articles

The Not-so-Red Sea

In Jeddah again for a month, a few days longer than expected: transpires there was a snafu with my visa renewal, a simple bureaucratic requirement,
which meant I had overstayed by a month and was to suffer all the consequences.
By Herculean effort on the part of several friends and colleagues, I did leave two days later.
The training went well, of course at the famed Rosewood Corniche.
I found out that Jeddah is not a barren waste land, which it seems to be by day, but comes to life at night when the temperatures dip below 100 and one can venture out without baking
(or being par-boiled, given the high humidity).
I spent time with friends and we visited a boat show where visitors were actually buying, not just looking.
As with the Rolls Royces on display at Al Faisiliah in Riyadh that attracted buyers who bought (Saudi Arabia is keeping the Rolls Royce motor car company afloat single handedly, possibly),
there is more than plenty of money in the country and a willingness to use it for the best of quality.
Reminds me of a story I heard: a mayor refused to buy into an ecologically sensible and money-saving idea precisely because he did not want to appear cheap.
The one question that was not answered during my stay was why the Red Sea remains stubbornly blue.
I was given a number of explanations.
a) The Biblical one, whereby the sea turned red with the blood of the men of Pharoah swallowed up by the sea when chasing the Israelites;
the problem being that people do not usually bleed when they drown; and anyway, at 7,000 feet depth, I doubt the Ancient Egyptians tried to cross the Red Sea on their chariots (seems the actual crossing was shallower and covered with reeds);
b) The prevalence of algae, as in the Red Tide we experience in the Gulf of Mexico, which does not turn the Gulf red by my observations;
c) The sun setting on the water turning it red; the problem being that it does not turn appreciably red at sunset by my observation;
d) The Red Sea is the southern sea when compared with the Black Sea, meaning the Northern Sea by Turkey and Russia/Ukraine (on the basis that some Asiatic languages refer to compass directions by colors). Quite possible.
e) It refers to mineral-rich red mountains in the area;
or to the ancient Egyptian name for the nearby (red) desert;
or to a local tribe whose name translates as Red.
Quite possibly, but if so, which is it?
Lacking any definitive derivation, I propose we rename it The Blue Sea based on empirical evidence; but then, which sea is not?
If anyone has any other ideas, I am all ears.