The Persian Gulf, also called the Arabian Gulf is an extension of the Indian Ocean. It is also viewed as a mediterranean sea or a marginal sea of the Indian Ocean. It is a crucial maritime waterway that separates the peninsula of Arabia from southwestern Asia.
It is situated between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. The gulf covers around 93,000 square miles or 2,51,000 square kilometres. It measures 615 miles or 990 km lengthwise and is 340 km to 55 km broad.
Iran borders it from the north, east and northeast, while Oman and UAE surround it from the south and southeast. It is surrounded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain from the southwest and west and Iraq and Kuwait from the northwest.
The gulf’s coastal areas are said to be the world’s biggest crude oil reserves. The control of these reserves led to many wars, skirmishes and battles in the region. Significant conflicts were the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Persian Gulf War of the 1990s etc.
Let us look at 10 Persian Gulf Facts you might not know.
1. Persian Gulf/ Arabian Gulf was formed 500,000 years ago
Geologists say the Persian gulf began to form around 500,000 years ago. It began to take shape along Iran’s southern plains. In its earlier years, it was so big that the plains in Borazjan, Khuzestan and Behbahan were filled with water till the Zagros mountains.
It is a part of the Persian Gulf basin, created in the Cenozoic era after the Arabian plate moved under the Zagros mountains. The basin started flooding 15,000 years ago after sea levels rose with the retreat of glaciers in the Holocene epoch.
It attained its present form due to geological changes over millions of years.
Presently, the Persian Gulf is filled with deposits carried here by the Mesopotamian rivers. The Persian Gulf is a remnant of an erstwhile larger basin running northwest towards the southeast.
Over thousands of years, large amounts of sediments like limestone and marl, evaporites and organic material were deposited here, which is why large reserves of oil are found here.
2. Persian Gulf has many islands
Some Persian Gulf islands are historic and were used by the colonial government of Britain as stopover points.
The biggest in terms of area is Qeshm island, controlled by Iran and in the Hormuz Strait. It is a famous tourist destination and a visual treat for nature lovers.
Hormuz is relatively small but offers many exciting adventures. It is colourful, and you’re taken back in time once you arrive. It has varied soils exhibiting 70 different colours, and a particular type of soil is said to be eatable and has healing properties.
It was a flourishing settlement with a considerable population, even in ancient and medieval times. Its strategic location and closeness to the Hormuz Strait make it commercially and geographically important.
Other islands in the gulf include greater and lesser Tunb, Kish, Abu Musa, Kharg, Hengam, Lavan, Farsi, Bubiyan, Tarout, Dalma and Saudi Arabia.
Many artificial islands have also been constructed to increase tourism in the Middle East. These include the famous Dubai’s world islands and Doha’s Pearl Qatar. However, creating these islands has damaged the mangroves and the marine ecosystem.
3. Named after the Persian or the Achaemenid Empire
The Persian Gulf was known by many different names throughout history. In the texts of Babylon, it has been referred to as ‘the sea above Akkad”.
It was called Bitter Sea by residents of Assyria. Then, in 550 BC, the first ancient dynasty was established in the southwestern part of the Iranian plateau.
After this, greek texts called the water body surrounding the province the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Persia. Compiled texts dating from 550-330 BC refer to the gulf and certain areas of the Arabian Peninsula as the Pars or Persian Sea. This highlighted the sovereignty and power enjoyed by the Persian empire over the entire area.
Today, there are several disputes regarding its name. Although historically known as the Persian Gulf, many nations and organisations call it the Arabian gulf.
This dispute came to the forefront in the 1960s due to rivalries between many Arabian nations and Iran and the rise of Arab nationalism. However, the International Hydrographic Organisation calls it the Gulf of Iran ( Persian Gulf).
4. Known as the World Oil Reservoir due to the presence of large oil and natural gas reserves
Persian gulf is important because it has significant oil resources on which world economies depend. Oil is not only found on the seabed but also on its shores which has given it the name of ‘World Oil Reservoir’.
It also serves as a transit waterway for oil from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and Iraq. Roughly 30% of the world’s oil is provided by the oilfields found in this region.
Also, it is not about the availability of oil but ease of procurement. Oil is easily extracted here, resulting in less costs of production, high production capacity, great quality of crude, transportation ease, and the probability of finding new reserves in future.
Additionally, the Safaniya Oil field, which is the world’s biggest offshore oil field, is situated in the Persian gulf waters.
Per the latest data, the Persian Gulf has 730 billion barrels of oil and over 70 trillion cubic m of natural gas.
While a large quantity of oil is refined in the region, most is shipped to Northwestern Europe, East Asia and other countries. The nations along the Gulf have several petroleum-based industries, and many consumer industries are also coming up rapidly.
5. Persian Gulf has several important seaports, harbours and oil terminals
Many important harbours and ports lie in the Persian or Arabian Gulf. Some prominent ones include Bandar Abbas, Bandar Lengeh, Mahshahr, Abu Dhabi port, Al-Faw etc.
Bandar Abbas is an essential port facility in the southern part of Iran. Located at the Strait of Hormuz, the port is divided into two areas, the new port known as Shahid Rajaee Port Special Economic Zone and the old one called Bandar Shahid Bahonar.
It is an expansive facility dealing with multifarious products and cargo. It also serves as a naval base. Major exports include a red oxide, dry fruits, almonds, dates, red oxide, chrome areas etc.
Imports include sugar, matches, fertilisers, woollen clothes, cereals, fertilisers, etc. Approximately 37,000,000 tonnes are handled annually here.
Another port on the Persian gulf is Bandar Lengeh. It has a general cargo terminal and handles passengers as well.
The terminals of Abu Dhabi port, also called the Mina Zayed, are situated on the coast of the UAE. They have approximately 21 berths which are well-protected. They handle containerised cargo, RORO, reefers, oil tankers and general cargo.
6. Experiences a notorious climate with occasional thunderstorms and waterspouts.
The Persian or Arabian Gulf has harsh or unpleasant weather. Usually, the temperature is high and reaches 50 degrees Celsius in the summer. However, winters are cool, and the sky is cloudy. Rainfall is sparse and mostly concentrated in the region lying on the northeastern side of the Gulf.
Dust storms and haze is common, especially in summer. Also, shamal, which is a type of wind that blows in summer, is quite strong. Autumn is characterised by waterspouts and winds reaching a speed of 95 miles per hour.
7. Persian Gulf has 200 freshwater springs on its bottom.
Apart from the high salinity in its waters, the Arabian Gulf or the Persian Gulf, has around 200 freshwater springs on its seabed and 25 on its coast, most of which start from Iran’s Zagros Mountains.
The freshwater that enters the Persian Gulf is mainly confined to the runoff of the Zagros Mountains in Iran and the mountains of Turkey and Iraq.
8. An uncanny marine animal called Dugong dugan is found in the Persian/Arabian Gulf Waters
Persian Gulf waters are home to several strange and unusual sea creatures. One such is the dugong Dugan, also known as sea cows. They were given their name due to their grazing mannerisms, gentle nature and closeness to land mammals than dolphins or sharks.
However, the population of this unique sea animal is being impacted due to the construction of artificial islands along the coast and the environmental impact of oil spills.
Apart from this, there are many migratory birds and native species as well. A famous one includes kalbaensis, which is a subspecies of the collard kingfisher. This species is nearing extinction due to real estate expansion near its three important nesting sites.
Other species that have been impacted include flamingos, booted warblers and hawksbill turtles.
9. More than 700 fish species, mostly native, are found in the Persian Gulf or Arabian Gulf
Approximately 700 types of fish are found here. Most of them are endemic to the gulf’s waters and depend on reefs for food and shelter. The majority of reefs are pretty rocky, but a few are coral reefs located at great distances from each other.
The scarcity of corals is associated with the influx of rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which bring vast amounts of sediments and lead to massive differences in salinity and temperature. Corals, in general, cannot cope with these variations.
However, coral reefs are present along the Persian Gulf coast. In the past few years, the health of Persian Gulf corals has declined substantially, which is a cause for concern. The culprit is global warming but also the attitude of the nations along the gulf.
Items used in construction and other debris like cement block pieces, tires, and chemical by-products can be seen floating in the Gulf. Not only do these items threaten corals, but they also act as traps and kill marine creatures that thrive near the coral reefs.
10. Mangrove forests are found along the Persian/ Arabian Gulf Coast
Mangroves in the Gulf waters need a certain tidal flow and a perfect mixture of fresh and saltwater for growing. They create a unique aquatic ecosystem and act as breeding and nesting grounds for different kinds of fish, insects, birds and crabs.
Mangroves are found along Hormozgan, Boushehr and Sistan-Baluchistan. They are managed by ethnic communities like Baluch and Bandari, along with the authorities.
The former use the mangrove forests sustainably for fishing and getting wood and non-timber products. Earlier, the wood from these trees was used as fuel, but now the leaves are used as camel feed, while flowers are used to procure honey. Since they are a unique marine habitat, they are also utilised for breeding shrimp and other fish species.
There are other mangroves as well. For instance, the ones in Khamir and Qeshm are designated as protected areas.
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