THE RED SEA. 6. Route. 409
large steamers is in the middle of the sea, which is free from these
reefs, but the smaller Arabian vessels always .steer close to the shore,
with the configuration of which their captains are well acquainted, in
order that they may run into one of its numerous creeks (sherm) on the
sliffhtest threatening of bad weather. The Arabs adopt the cautious
policy of never sailing at night or in stormy weather, unless compelled;
and when they are obliged to cross the sea, they always wait for settled
weather. In spite of the miserable construction of their vessels, ship¬
wrecks are accordingly of rare occurrence.
No rivers fall into the Red Sea. but a number of intermittent rain-
torrents descend from its banks. The water is of a beautiful blue colour,
changing to pale green where there are shoals or reefs near the surface.
No satisfactory reason for the modern name of the sea has yet been
given. The difference between high and low tide is 3>/2-7 feet. The
prevalent wind in the N. part of the sea, particularly in summer, is the
N. wind, and in the S. part the S.E. wind in winter, and the N.W. in
summer. The sea is therefore unsuitable for large sailing vessels, which,
when bound for India, always sail round the Cape of Good Hope.
The coasts of the Red Sea consist of barren rock or sand, and are
almost entirely uninhabited. A little way inland the mountains rise to
a height of 4000-7600 feet. So far back as the time of Solomon the nav¬
igation of the Red Sea was of considerable importance, and several of
the seaports, such as Berenike and Myos Hormos, were celebrated. Since
the opening of the Suez Canal the sea has been regularly traversed by
the Indian steamers, which run direct from Suez to Aden. The traffic
between the different places on the coast is carried on by means of the
Arabian coasting vessels (katera. barge; sambiik, vessel of medium size
with a short cutwater; baghleh, the same, without cutwater; dau, or dow,
a vessel of considerable size with a prodigious development of stern;
rangeh', the same, with a long cutwater). Regular communication be¬
tween some of the more important places is also kept up by Egyptian
steamers, which ply fortnightly between Suez, .ledda. Sauakin, and
Masau'a. Steamers of the Austrian Lloyd and others also ply between
Suez and Jedda at the time of the Meccan nilsrimage.
African Coast. On this side of the Red Sea there is not a single
place of consequence between Suez and Koser. At Oimsdh, opposite Tur,
sulphur-mines were formerly worked, and it was then a place of some
importance; but the mines have been abandoned, and the whole district.
is now inhabited by a few nomadic Beduins only.
Koser (1200 inhab.) is the harbour of Upper Egypt, from which it is
4>/2 days' journey in a straight line. It was formerly one of the chief outlets
for the products of Esypt, particularly grain, and was also the starting-
point of numerous pilgrims, but since the opening of the Suez railway
it has lost nearly all its importance. It was a place of no importance
down to the first decade of the present century, when, under the auspices
of Mohammed 'Ali, it increased to a town of 7000 inhabitants. It is now
a neglected place, as all the pilgrims, except the poorest, now prefer the
route by Suez. Even its grain trade, its only other resource, has greatly
declined, as steamers now convey corn to the Hejaz at a cheaper rate
than it can be obtained from Koser. The steamers rarely touch here,
and the traffic is carried on by native craft only, which ply almost
exclusively to Jedda, Yenba', and Wejj.
Koser is the residence of a governor, and possesses a quarantine
establishment, a government corn magazine for the supply of the Hejaz
CDakhireh), and a telegraph office communicating with the valley of the
Nile. The town is a well-built place, crowned with a citadel, which was
erected by Sultan Selim in the 16th century and still contains a few
cannon dating from the French period and a mortar with the inscription,
'L'an III de la Rep. francaise'. In the distant background rise pictur¬
esque mountains, culminating in Gebel Abu TiyHr and Abu Suba'a, 4200ft.
in height. The harbour is sheltered from the prevailing N. wind only.
Drinking water has to be brought to the town in skins from the moun¬
tains, one day's journey distant.