An inlet from the ocean protruding into the land, Gulfs are beautiful topographical features on the face of the earth, formed due to plate tectonics. They are usually connected to oceans or seas through narrow channels or waterways called Straits.
The Gulf of Oman covers an area spanning 115,000 square kilometres. It is the western extension of the Arabian Sea and lies in the Middle East, bordered by the nations of Oman, Iran, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.
Read along to learn 10 interesting facts about the Gulf of Oman.
1. It is also called the Sea of Oman
The Gulf of Oman, also known as the Sea of Oman, is in the northwestern Indian Ocean. It links the Arabian Sea with the Hormuz Strait, which eventually drains into the Persian Gulf.
It is 340 km wide and 3700 km deep; however, it is 320 km wide between Oman’s Cape al-Hadd and Gwadar Bay, on the Pakistan-Iran border. It runs 560 km when it connects to the Persian Gulf, going northwest to the Hormuz Strait. Along this route lie several small ports such as Suhar, al-Khaburah, Muscat, Sur, etc.
2. Home to many beautiful islands
The Gulf of Oman has some of the most picturesque islands that are famous tourist destinations, such as the Al Fahal Island, Sheytan Island, Sawadi and Dimaniyat Islands.
Al Fahal Island is located just 4 km from the mainland and spans 2.24 km2. It is made up of 55-35 million years old Eocene limestone and marl.
The Al Sawadi beach on the northern shores of Oman is also surrounded by islands famous for diving sites and snorkelling. The main island here has a fort that is accessible on foot when there is a low tide.
Damaniyat Islands, also called the Ad Damaniyat, is a protected nature reserve comprising an archipelago of 9 islands off the Oman coast in the Arabian Sea.
They are famous for their limestone terrain, rich aquatic life, and sandy beaches. One can expect to see many sea turtles and whale sharks in the waters around the island. The best way to get to the Daymaniyat islands is by booking a tour with a tour company.
The islands mentioned above, and several others found in the Gulf of Oman waters, support diverse fish and coral species. For instance, Fahal Island is a protected nature reserve, and people require permits to scuba dive here.
3. Part of ancient trade routes, facilitating trade between Civilisations
The Gulf of Oman was known by many different names, like the Makran Sea and the Akhzar Sea, by Arabian, Iranian and European geographers and travellers. It was called the Makran Sea till the 18th century, as evidenced by historical maps and manuscripts of the period.
It was part of an ancient trade route linking the Arabian Sea to the Persian Gulf, which enabled maritime trade between civilisations of the Indian Subcontinent. The Middle East and the Mediterranean.
During the influence of the Persian Empire, the Gulf of Oman and the areas around it emerged as important economic and trading hubs. In the Age of Discovery, which began with European explorations, the Portuguese sought to gain control of the Gulf of Oman.
It was also important for the Ottoman Empire, which wanted to secure maritime routes of the region and extend its naval influence.
Lastly, the British East India Company and the British Empire had a significant presence here. Muscat Port was a stopover point for British vessels to and from India.
4. A vital maritime chokepoint for oil shipments
The Gulf of Oman has geopolitical importance since it lies near the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway linking it to the Persian Gulf. It is also a vital maritime chokepoint for world oil transport, and any regional tensions or disruptions could drastically affect international maritime trade and energy security.
It is a vital shipping lane for oil-producing areas in the Middle East and Persian Gulf as it provides the only entry from the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean into the Persian Gulf. The World’s major oil importers and exporters have a vested interest in the security of the Gulf of Oman.
5. Several major ports lie along the Gulf of Oman Coast
Fujairah is an important port on the eastern coast of the U.S. It has general and dry bulk cargo, tankers, container and cruise ships. It is one of the major ports serving East Africa, India and the Gulf. The Vopak Horizon Terminal, which lies 2 km north, deals with oil products. The port handles 19,900,000 tonnes of cargo every year.
Khor Fakkan lies on the eastern coast of the UAE, north of Fujairah. It is a natural deepwater port with a 6-berth container and RORO facility for dealing with large container ships and cement vessels. Around 1500 ships and over 2,01,000 TEU are handled annually here.
Chabahar lies in the south of Iran and faces the Gulf of Oman. It comprises Beheshti and Kalanteri Port and would be connected by railways to the port of Amirabad. It handled bagged grains and fertilisers. Around 1,400,000 tonnes of cargo is handled at Chabahar each year.
Port Sultan Qaboos lies on the northern coast of the Gulf of Oman, 2 nm northwest of Muscat. It is a major port of Oman, having eight berths with a 13 m draught spanning 5290 metres. They handle grains, vehicles, fertilisers, livestock, food stock, steel, white goods, Indian clinker, scrap metal, chromate, frozen fish and much more.
Approximately 2130 ships, 14,000,000 tonnes of cargo, 360,000 TEUs, and 16,000 passengers are handled at the Sultan Qaboos Port annually.
6. The Gulf of Oman has one of the world’s largest marine dead zone
In 2018, scientists revealed that the Gulf of Oman has one of the biggest marine dead zones in the world, an area with little to no oxygen where marine flora and fauna cannot live.
The dead zone covers 165,000 km2 of area, equal to the size of Florida in the U.S. It is caused by increased global warming and phosphorus and nitrogen runoff from fertilisers.
Agriculture around the gulf’s shores has increased the runoff of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and detergents in the waters. These nutrients lead to algal blooms, and when they die, they deteriorate the water quality and deplete the dissolved oxygen in water, creating dead zones.
In January 2024, scientists found that this dead zone is expanding due to climate change and unchecked pollution. It is the first study in decades to measure oxygen levels in the Gulf of Oman using Seagliders, sent in 200 m of water near the edge of a shelf close to the ocean floor.
The Seagliders, underwater robots, were deployed to research the Gulf’s bioluminescent algae. However, they showed drastically low levels of oxygen in the gulf’s waters, which shifted the focus of the research.
7. Around 530 fish species live in the waters of the Gulf of Oman
About 530 fish species live in the Gulf of Oman waters. One can expect to find tuna, pomfret, marlin, mackerel, sailfish, swordfish, greater lizardfish, dolphinfish, and sardinella.
Sharks like the Blue Sharks, Silky Sharks, bigeye threshers, scalloped hammerheads, dolphins and other marine mammals use it for migration. The warm waters and abundant food attract these creatures, offering opportunities for marine enthusiasts and researchers.
One can also enjoy fishing here. Omani Bream, Pompano, Queenfish, Milkfish, etc., are abundant, and these species can be found along the cliffs, shallow beaches and secluded bays.
8. The Gulf of Oman is home to endangered coral species
The reefs of the Gulf of Oman stretch from the coast into the Arabian Sea. They have colourful corals teeming with exotic fish, a testament to the beauty and nature’s resilience.
Critically endangered species of corals, including the Dendrophyllia and Elkhorn corals, can be found here. They have been extensively studied by scientists and researchers working to protect the Gulf of Oman marine ecosystem.
Some of the corals come together to form sprawling coral gardens that cover large areas of the seabed.
9. The International Underwater Rail Tunnel Project to pass through the Gulf of Oman
In 2018, an underwater rail tunnel project was suggested to connect the UAE with India’s western coast. For this purpose, a bullet train tunnel was suggested, supported by pontoons covering 2000 km.
There would be many advantages, such as swift transportation of passengers and workers between UAE and India. It would aid in the export of oil and gas from the port of Fujairah to India through a pipeline.
Additionally, as Narmada to the north of Mumbai floods almost yearly, the extra water could be sent to UAE via pipelines. It could also help transport cargo and supply bunker fuel to ships passing between floating pontoons through a floating bunker fuel station.
10. A Tourist Hotspot famous for scuba diving & snorkelling
With breathtaking beauty and colourful marine life, the Gulf of Oman attracts thousands of tourists worldwide who can enjoy diving expeditions, snorkelling tours, dolphin and whale watching tours, kayaking and much more.
One of the best ways to experience the beautiful underwater world of Oman is through Dhow Cruising. One can book a short trip of 60 minutes or more with a local and knowledgeable guide who takes you from the coast of the Musandam area by the Khasab Beach and the shores of Muscat and Dhofar beaches.
One can also enjoy kayaking near the coastline of Oman and view marine life in its crystal clear waters. You can expect to see sea turtles, whales, dolphins and other marine creatures.
Scuba diving is a must, especially in the coral reefs of the Gulf of Oman. The best sites are in Musandam governorate in north Oman and Muscat.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.