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Basin countries  Djibouti,  Eritrea,  Somalia,  Yemen
Max. length 80 mi (130 km)
Max. width 25 mi (40 km)
Average depth −609 ft (−186 m)

The Bab-el-Mandeb[1] (Arabic: باب المندب‎) is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It is sometimes called the Mandab Strait in the English language.


  • Overview 1
  • Suspension bridge 2
  • Sub-region 3
    • Demographics 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Bathymetric map of the Red Sea with the Bab-el-Mandeb at the bottom right

"Bab-el-Mandeb" means "Gateway of anguish", or "Gateway of tears"; the strait derives its name from the dangers attending its navigation, or, according to an Arab legend, from the numbers who were drowned by the earthquake which separated Asia and Africa.

The Bab-el-Mandeb acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers.[2]

The distance across is about 20 miles (30 km) from Ras Menheli in Yemen to Ras Siyyan in Djibouti. The island of Perim divides the strait into two channels, of which the eastern, known as the Bab Iskender (Alexander's Strait), is 2 miles (3 km) wide and 16 fathoms (30 m) deep, while the western, or Dact-el-Mayun, has a width of about 16 miles (25 km) and a depth of 170 fathoms (310 m). Near the coast of Djibouti lies a group of smaller islands known as the "Seven Brothers". There is a surface current inwards in the eastern channel, but a strong undercurrent outwards in the western channel.

According to the recent single origin hypothesis, the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb were probably witness to the earliest migrations of modern humans (not including other hominins) out of Africa roughly 60,000 years ago.[3][4] It is presumed that at this time, the oceans were much lower and the straits were much shallower or dry, allowing a series of emigrations along the southern coast of Asia.

According to Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church tradition, the straits of Bab-el-Mendeb were witness to the earliest migrations of Semitic Ge'ez speakers into Africa, occurring ca. 1900 BC, or roughly around the same time as the Hebrew patriarch Jacob.[5]

The Kingdom of Aksum was a major regional power in the Horn of Africa. It would eventually extend its rule over the Arabian peninsula with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom.

Suspension bridge

On February 22, 2008, it was revealed that a company owned by Tarek bin Laden is planning to build a bridge named Bridge of the Horns across the strait, linking Yemen with Djibouti.[6]

Middle East Development LLC has issued a notice to construct a bridge passing across the Red Sea that would be the longest suspended passing in the world.[7]

The project has been assigned to engineering company COWI in collaboration with architect studio Dissing+Weitling, both from Denmark.


The Bab-el-Mandab is also a sub-region in the Arab League, which includes Djibouti, Yemen and Somalia.


Country Area
(2013 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital GDP (PPP) $M USD GDP per capita (PPP) $ USD
Djibouti 23,200 792,198 96.4 Djibouti City $2.379 $2,676
Somalia 637,657 10,251,568 41.17 Mogadishu $5,896 $600
Yemen 527,829 23,833,000 44.7 Sana'a $58,202 $2,249
Total 1,188,686 34,876,766 29.3 / km² Various $66,477 $1841

See also




  1. ^ Variously transliterated Mandab or Mandib, and with article "el-" given also as "al-", with or without connecting dashes; meaning "Gate of Grief".
  2. ^ World Oil Transit Chokepoints, Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy
  3. ^ Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man
  4. ^ Stephen Oppenheimer. The Gates of Grief
  5. ^ Official website of EOTC
  6. ^ BBC NEWS | Africa | Tarek Bin Laden's Red Sea bridge
  7. ^
  8. ^ "CIA World Factbook". The World Factbook. Langley, Virginia: Central Intelligence Agency. 

External links

  • Notice-to-Proceed Launches Ambitious Red Sea Crossing
  • Sea crossing

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