Persian Gulf (Persian: شاخاب پارس,
translit. Xalij-e Fârs, lit. 'Gulf of Fars') is a
mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension
Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman) through the
Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz and
Iran to the northeast and the
Arabian Peninsula to the
Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest
Persian Gulf was a battlefield of the 1980–1988 Iran–
in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers. It is the
namesake of the 1991 Gulf War, the largely air- and land-based
conflict that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
The gulf has many fishing grounds, extensive reefs (mostly rocky, but
also coral), and abundant pearl oysters, but its ecology has been
damaged by industrialization and oil spills.
The body of water is historically and internationally known as the
"Persian Gulf". Some Arab governments refer to it as the
"Arabian Gulf" (Arabic: اَلْـخَـلِـيْـج
الْـعَـرَبِي, translit. Al-Khalīj al-ˁArabī) or
"The Gulf", but neither term is recognized internationally. The
name "Gulf of
Iran (Persian Gulf)" is used by the International
Persian Gulf is geologically very young, having been formed around
15,000 years ago.
3 Oil and gas
4.1 Naming dispute
5.1 Ancient history
5.2 Colonial era
7 Cities and population
7.1 Major cities image gallery
8.1 Aquatic mammals
8.3 Fish and reefs
9 See also
11 External links
Eastern Arabia and Arab states of the Persian Gulf
This inland sea of some 251,000 square kilometres
(96,912 sq mi) is connected to the
Gulf of Oman
Gulf of Oman in the east
by the Strait of Hormuz; and its western end is marked by the major
river delta of the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the
Euphrates and the Tigris. Its length is 989 kilometres (615 miles),
Iran covering most of the northern coast and
Saudi Arabia most of
the southern coast. The
Persian Gulf is about 56 km (35 mi)
wide at its narrowest, in the Strait of Hormuz. The waters are overall
very shallow, with a maximum depth of 90 metres (295 feet) and an
average depth of 50 metres (164 feet).
Countries with a coastline on the
Persian Gulf are (clockwise, from
the north): Iran; Oman's Musandam exclave; the United Arab Emirates;
Saudi Arabia (in
Iran this is called "Arvand Rood", where "Rood" means
"river"); Qatar, on a peninsula off the Saudi coast; Bahrain, on an
island; Kuwait; and
Iraq in the northwest. Various small islands also
lie within the Persian Gulf, some of which are the subject of
territorial disputes between the states of the region.
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the Persian Gulf's
southern limit as "The Northwestern limit of Gulf of Oman". This limit
is defined as "A line joining Ràs Limah (25°57'N) on the coast of
Arabia and Ràs al Kuh (25°48'N) on the coast of
The gulf is connected to
Indian Ocean through Strait of Hormuz.
Writing the water balance budget for the Persian Gulf, the inputs are
river discharges from
Iraq (estimated to be 2000 cubic meters
per second), as well as precipitation over the sea which is around
180mm/year in Qeshm Island. The evaporation of the sea is high, so
that after considering river discharge and rain contributions, there
is still a deficit of 416 cubic kilometers per year. This
difference is supplied by currents at the Strait of Hormuz. The water
from the Gulf has a higher salinity, and therefore exits from the
bottom of the Strait, while ocean water with less salinity flows in
through the top. Another study revealed the following numbers for
water exchanges for the Gulf: evaporation = -1.84m/year, precipitation
= 0.08m/year, inflow from the Strait = 33.66m/year, outflow from the
Strait = -32.11m/year, and the balance is 0m/year. Data from
different 3D computational fluid mechanics models, typically with
spatial resolution of 3 kilometers and depth each element equal to
1–10 meters are predominantly used in computer models.
Oil and gas
See also: Strait of Hormuz
Oil and gas pipelines and fields
Persian Gulf and its coastal areas are the world's largest single
source of crude oil, and related industries dominate
the region. Safaniya Oil Field, the world's largest offshore oilfield,
is located in the Persian Gulf. Large gas finds have also been made,
Iran sharing a giant field across the territorial
median line (North Field in the Qatari sector; South Pars Field in the
Iranian sector). Using this gas,
Qatar has built up a substantial
liquefied natural gas (LNG) and petrochemical industry.
In 2002, the
Persian Gulf nations of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE produced about 25% of the world's
oil, held nearly two-thirds of the world's crude oil reserves, and
about 35% of the world's natural gas reserves. The oil-rich
countries (excluding Iraq) that have a coastline on the Persian Gulf
are referred to as the
Persian Gulf States. Iraq's egress to the gulf
is narrow and easily blockaded consisting of the marshy river delta of
the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the
Euphrates and the
Tigris rivers, where the east bank is held by Iran.
Map of the Persian Gulf. The
Gulf of Oman
Gulf of Oman leads to the Arabian Sea.
Detail from larger map of the Middle East.
In 550 BC, the
Achaemenid Empire established the first ancient empire
Persis (Pars, or modern Fars), in the southwestern region of the
Iranian plateau. Consequently, in the Greek sources, the body of water
that bordered this province came to be known as the "Persian
During the years 550 to 330 BC, coinciding with the sovereignty of the
Achaemenid Persian Empire over the
Middle East area, especially the
whole part of the
Persian Gulf and some parts of the Arabian
Peninsula, the name of "Pars Sea" is widely found in the compiled
In the travel account of Pythagoras, several chapters are related to
description of his travels accompanied by the Achaemenid king Darius
the Great, to
Susa and Persepolis, and the area is described. From
among the writings of others in the same period, there is the
inscription and engraving of Darius the Great, installed at junction
of waters of
Red Sea and the
Nile river and the Rome river (current
Mediterranean) which belongs to the 5th century BC where Darius the
Great has named the
Persian Gulf Water Channel: "Pars Sea" ("Persian
Considering the historical background of the name Persian Gulf, Sir
Arnold Wilson mentions in a book published in 1928 that "no water
channel has been so significant as
Persian Gulf to the geologists,
archaeologists, geographers, merchants, politicians, excursionists,
and scholars whether in past or in present. This water channel which
Iran Plateau from the Arabia Plate, has enjoyed an
Iranian Identity since at least 2200 years ago."
Before being given its present name, the
Persian Gulf was called many
different names. The classical Greek writers, like Herodotus, called
it "the Red Sea". In Babylonian texts, it was known as "the sea above
Persian Gulf naming dispute
A historical map of the
Persian Gulf in a
Dubai museum with the word
The name of the gulf, historically and internationally known as the
Persian Gulf after the land of Persia (Iran), has been disputed by
Arab countries since the 1960s. Rivalry between
Iran and some
Arab states, along with the emergence of pan-Arabism and Arab
nationalism, has seen the name Arabian Gulf become predominant in most
Arab countries. Names beyond these two have also been applied
to or proposed for this body of water.
Picture depicting extent of early civilizations around the Persian
Gulf, including Lackhmids, and Sassanids.
Picture depicting the Achaemenid Persian empire in relation to the
Picture depicting "Persian Corridor" through which the Allies provided
supplies to USSR.
The world's oldest known civilization (Sumer) developed along the
Persian Gulf and southern Mesopotamia. The shallow basin that now
underlies the Gulf was an extensive region of river valley and
wetlands during the transition between the end of the Last Glacial
Maximum and the start of the Holocene, which, according to University
of Birmingham archaeologist Jeffrey Rose, served as an environmental
refuge for early humans during periodic hyperarid climate
oscillations, laying the foundations for the legend of Dilmun.
For most of the early history of the settlements in the Persian Gulf,
the southern shores were ruled by a series of nomadic tribes. During
the end of the fourth millennium BC, the southern part of the Persian
Gulf was dominated by the
Dilmun civilization. For a long time the
most important settlement on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf
was Gerrha. In the 2nd century the Lakhum tribe, who lived in what is
now Yemen, migrated north and founded the
Lakhmid Kingdom along the
southern coast. Occasional ancient battles took place along the
Persian Gulf coastlines, between the Sassanid Persian empire and the
Lakhmid Kingdom, the most prominent of which was the invasion led by
Shapur II against the Lakhmids, leading to Lakhmids' defeat, and
advancement into Arabia, along the southern shore lines. During
the 7th century the Sassanid Persian empire conquered the whole of the
Persian Gulf, including southern and northern shores.
Between 625 BC and 226 AD, the northern side was dominated by a
succession of Persian empires including the Median, Achaemenid,
Seleucid and Parthian empires. Under the leadership of the Achaemenid
Darius the Great
Darius the Great (Darius I), Persian ships found their way to the
Persian Gulf. Persian naval forces laid the foundation for a
strong Persian maritime presence in Persian Gulf, that started with
Darius I and existed until the arrival of the British East India
Company, and the Royal Navy by mid-19th century AD. Persians were not
only stationed on islands of the Persian Gulf, but also had ships
often of 100 to 200 capacity patrolling empire's various rivers
including Shatt-al-Arab, Tigris, and the
Nile in the west, as well as
Sind waterway, in India.
The Achaemenid high naval command had established major naval bases
Shatt al-Arab river, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. The
Persian fleet would soon not only be used for peacekeeping purposes
Shatt al-Arab but would also open the door to trade with
India via Persian Gulf.
Following the fall of Achaemenid Empire, and after the fall of the
Parthian Empire, the
Sassanid empire ruled the northern half and at
times the southern half of the Persian Gulf. The Persian Gulf, along
with the Silk Road, were important trade routes in the Sassanid
empire. Many of the trading ports of the Persian empires were located
in or around Persian Gulf. Siraf, an ancient Sassanid port that was
located on the northern shore of the gulf, located in what is now the
Iranian province of Bushehr, is an example of such commercial port.
Siraf, was also significant in that it had a flourishing commercial
China by the 4th century, having first established
connection with the far east in 185 AD.
See also: British Residency of the Persian Gulf
The Portuguese Castle on
Hormuz Island (Gaspar Correia. "Lendas da
Índia", c. 1556)
Portuguese expansion into the
Indian Ocean in the early 16th century
following Vasco da Gama's voyages of exploration saw them battle the
Ottomans up the coast of the Persian Gulf. In 1521, a Portuguese force
led by commander Antonio Correia invaded
Bahrain to take control of
the wealth created by its pearl industry. On April 29, 1602, Shāh
Abbās, the Persian emperor of the
Safavid Persian Empire
Safavid Persian Empire expelled the
Portuguese from Bahrain, and that date is commemorated as National
Persian Gulf day in Iran. With the support of the British fleet,
in 1622 'Abbās took the island of Hormuz from the Portuguese; much of
the trade was diverted to the town of Bandar 'Abbās, which he had
taken from the Portuguese in 1615 and had named after himself. The
Persian Gulf was therefore opened by Persians to a flourishing
commerce with the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Spanish and the British
merchants, who were granted particular privileges. The Ottoman Empire
reasserted itself into
Eastern Arabia in 1871. Under military and
political pressure from the governor of the Ottoman Vilayet of
Baghdad, Midhat Pasha, the ruling
Al Thani tribe submitted peacefully
to Ottoman rule. The
Ottomans were forced to withdraw from the
area with the start of
World War I
World War I and the need for troops in various
In World War II, the Western Allies used
Iran as a conduit to
transport military and industrial supply to the USSR, through a
pathway known historically as the "Persian Corridor". Britain utilized
Persian Gulf as the entry point for the supply chain in order to
make use of the Trans-Iranian Railway. The
Persian Gulf therefore
became a critical maritime path through which the Allies transported
equipment to Russia against the Nazi invasion.
From 1763 until 1971, the
British Empire maintained varying degrees of
political control over some of the
Persian Gulf states, including the
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates (originally called the Trucial States)
and at various times Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and
Qatar through the
British Residency of the Persian Gulf.
The United Kingdom maintains a high profile in the region to date; in
2006 alone, over 1 million British nationals visited Dubai. In
2014, the UK announced it will reestablish a permanent military base,
HMS Jufair, in the Persian Gulf, the first since it withdrew from East
of Suez in 1971.
See also: List of islands in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf is home to many small islands. Bahrain, an island in
the Persian Gulf, is itself a
Persian Gulf Arab state. Geographically
the biggest island in the
Persian Gulf is
Qeshm island located in the
Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz and belonging to Iran. Other significant islands in
Persian Gulf include Greater Tunb,
Lesser Tunb and Kish
administered by Iran, Bubiyan administered by Kuwait, Tarout
administered by Saudi Arabia, and Dalma administered by UAE. In recent
years, there has also been addition of artificial islands, often
created by Arab states such as UAE for commercial reasons or as
tourist resorts. Although very small, these artificial islands have
had a negative impact on the mangrove habitats upon which they are
built, often causing unpredictable environmental issues. Persian Gulf
islands are often also historically significant, having been used in
the past by colonial powers such as the Portuguese and the British in
their trade or as acquisitions for their empires.
Cities and population
Eight nations have coasts along the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The
gulf's strategic location has made it an ideal place for human
development over time. Today, many major cities of the
Middle East are
located in this region.
Major cities image gallery
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Bandar Abbas, Iran
Dariush Grand Hotel
Dariush Grand Hotel in Kish Island, Iran
Khobar City, Saudi Arabia
Gulf of Oman
Gulf of Oman desert and semi-desert
The wildlife of the
Persian Gulf is diverse, and entirely unique due
to the gulf's geographic distribution and its isolation from the
international waters only breached by the narrow Strait of Hormuz. The
Persian Gulf has hosted some of the most magnificent marine fauna and
flora, some of which are near extirpation or at serious environmental
risk. From corals, to dugongs,
Persian Gulf is a diverse cradle for
many species who depend on each other for survival. However, the gulf
is not as biologically diverse as the Red Sea.
Overall, the wild life of the
Persian Gulf is endangered from both
global factors, and regional, local negligence. Most pollution is from
ships; land generated pollution counts as the second most common
source of pollution.
This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often
accompanies biased or unverifiable information. Such statements should
be clarified or removed. (July 2015)
Along the mediterranean regions of the Arabian Sea, including the
Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Suez, the
Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Aden, and the Gulf of Oman, dolphins and
finless porpoises are the most common marine mammals in the waters,
while larger whales and orcas are rarer today. Historically,
whales had been abundant in the gulf before commercial hunts wiped
Whales were reduced even further by illegal mass
hunts by the
Soviet Union and Japan in the 1960s and 70s. Along
with Bryde's whales, the most common and possible
resident and still can be seen in deeper marginal seas such as Gulf of
Israel coasts, and in Strait of Hormuz. Other
species such as the critically endangered Arabian humpback whale
(also historically common in Gulf of Aden, and sighting records
Red Sea since in 2006 including in Gulf of Aqaba),
omura's whale, minke whale, and orca also swim into the gulf,
while many other large species such as blue whale, sei, and
sperm whales were once migrants into the
Gulf of Oman
Gulf of Oman and off the
coasts in deeper waters, and still migrate in Red Sea, but
mainly in deeper waters of outer seas. In 2017, waters of Persian Gulf
Abu Dhabi was revealed to hold world's largest population of
Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins.
One of the more unusual marine mammals living in the
Persian Gulf is
the dugong (
Dugong dugon). Also called "sea cows" for their grazing
habits, their mild manner and resemblance to the livestock, dugongs
have a life expectancy similar to that of humans and can reach lengths
of up to 3 metres (9.8 feet). These gentle mammals feed on the sea
grass and closer relatives of certain land mammals than the dolphins
and the whales. Despite the simplicity of their grass diet, new
developments along the
Persian Gulf coastline, particularly artificial
island development in Arab states, pollution particularly by oil
spills caused during the "
Persian Gulf war" and also due to occasional
oil spills, and uncontrolled hunting has had a negative impact on the
survival of the dugongs. After Australian waters with some 80,000
dugong inhabitants, the waters off Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi
Arabia have some 7,500 dugongs remaining, making the
Persian Gulf the
second most important habitat for the species. Dugong's current number
is dwindling and it is not clear how many are currently alive or what
their reproductive trend is. Unfortunately, ambitious and
uncalculated construction schemes, political unrest and an
ever-present international conflict, and presence of the most
lucrative world supply of oil, along with lack of cooperation between
Arab states and Iran, has had a negative impact on the survival of
many marine species, including dugongs.
Persian Gulf is also home to many migratory and local birds. There
is great variation in color, size, and type of the bird species that
call the gulf home. One bird in particular, the kalbaensis subspecies
of the collared kingfishers is at the brink of extinction due to real
state development by cities such as
Dubai and countries such as
Oman. Estimates from 2006 showed that only three viable nesting
sites were available for this ancient bird, one located 80 miles
(129 km) from Dubai, and two smaller sites in Oman, all of which
are in the process of becoming real estate developments. Such
expansion would prove devastating and could cause this species to
become extinct. Unfortunately for the kingfisher, a U.N. plan to
protect the mangroves as a biological reserve was blatantly ignored by
the emirate of Sharjah, which allowed the dredging of a channel that
bisects the wetland and construction of an adjacent concrete
walkway. Environmental watchdogs in Arabia are few, and those that
do advocate the wildlife are often silenced or ignored by developers
of real estate, most of whom have royal family connections and huge
energy profits to invest. The end result has been sacrifice of a
beautiful yet delicate ecology that has been in harmony for hundreds
of years, for structures that are erected only a few years, yet will
have a lasting detrimental effect.
Almost no species in the
Persian Gulf is spared from the real estate
development of UAE and Oman, including the hawksbill turtle, greater
flamingo, and booted warbler, mainly due to destruction of the
mangrove habitats to make way for towers, hotels, and luxury
resorts. Even dolphins that frequent the gulf in northern
Iran are at serious risk. Recent statistics and
observations show that dolphins are at danger of entrapment in purse
seine fishing nets and exposure to chemical pollutants; perhaps the
most alarming sign is the "mass suicides" committed by dolphins off
Hormozgan province, which are not well understood, but are
suspected to be linked with a deteriorating marine environment from
water pollution from oil, sewage, and industrial run offs.
Fish and reefs
Persian Gulf is home to over 700 species of fish, most of which
are native. Of these 700 species, more than 80% are reef
associated. These reefs are primarily rocky, but there are also a
few coral reefs. Compared to the Red Sea, the coral reefs in the
Persian Gulf are relatively few and far between. This is
primarily connected to the influx of major rivers, especially the
Shatt al-Arab (
Euphrates and Tigris), which carry large amounts of
sediment (most reef-building corals require strong light) and causes
relatively large variations in temperature and salinity (corals in
general are poorly suited to large variations).
Nevertheless, coral reefs have been found along sections of coast of
all countries in the Gulf. Corals are vital ecosystems that
support multitude of marine species, and whose health directly
reflects the health of the gulf. Recent years have seen a drastic
decline in the coral population in the gulf, partially owing to global
warming but majorly due to irresponsible dumping by Arab states like
the UAE and Bahrain. Construction garbage such as tires, cement,
and chemical by products have found their way to the
Persian Gulf in
recent years. Aside from direct damage to the coral, the construction
waste creates "traps" for marine life in which they are trapped and
die. The end result has been a dwindling population of the coral,
and as a result a decrease in number of species that rely on the
corals for their survival.
A great example of this symbiosis are the mangroves in the gulf, which
require tidal flow and a combination of fresh and salt water for
growth, and act as nurseries for many crabs, small fish, and insects;
these fish and insects are the source of food for many of the marine
birds that feed on them.
Mangroves are a diverse group of shrubs
and trees belonging to the genus
Rhizophora that flourish
in the salt water shallows of the gulf, and are the most important
habitats for small crustaceans that dwell in them. They are as crucial
an indicator of biological health on the surface of the water, as the
corals are to biological health of the gulf in deeper waters.
Mangroves' ability to survive the salt water through intricate
molecular mechanisms, their unique reproductive cycle, and their
ability to grow in the most oxygen-deprived waters have allowed them
extensive growth in hostile areas of the gulf. Unfortunately,
however, with the advent of artificial island development, most of
their habitat is destroyed, or occupied by man-made structures. This
has had a negative impact on the crustaceans that rely on the
mangrove, and in turn on the species that feed on them.
Dugong mother and her offspring in shallow water.
Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off the southern shore of Iran,
around Hengam Island.
Spinner dolphins leaping in the gulf.
Critically endangered Arabian humpback whales (being the most
isolated, and the only resident population in the world) off
Palm and sunset in
Minoo Island (Persian Gulf).
Arab cuisine of the Persian Gulf
Cradle of civilization
Gulf of Aden
Piracy in the Persian Gulf
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Look up persian gulf in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Persian Gulf.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Persian Gulf.
Qatar Digital Library – an online portal providing access to
previously undigitised British Library archive materials relating to
Gulf history and Arabic science
Persian Gulf, Encyclopædia Iranica
The Portuguese in the Arabian peninsula and in the Persian Gulf
32 historical map of Persian gulf, at flickr.com
Persian Gulf from 1920
Geopolitical importance of
Persian Gulf (
Coordinates: 26°N 52°E / 26°N 52°E / 26; 52
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