Mediterranean & North Africa

The Mediterranean Sea is the body of water that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean on the west to Asia on the east and separates Europe, Africa and Asia. It stretches about 2,500 miles from the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco to the shores of of Turkey and southwest Asia. From north to south the sea extends an average of 500 miles, covers almost 1 million square miles, and is about 16 thousand feet deep at its greatest depth. It is almost completely surrounded by land, on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Middle East. On the west it is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by an 8-mile wide passage called the Strait of Gibraltar, and to the east it connects to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, by the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. The 101 mile long man-made Suez Canal in the southeast between Egypt and the Sinai peninsula connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The Mediterranean Sea is replenished by the rivers that flow into it, but only by about one-third of the amount of water that it loses by evaporation. As a result, there is a continuous inflow of surface water from the Atlantic Ocean, as well as smaller amounts from the Black Sea. As a sea around which some of the most ancient human civilizations settled, it has been called the incubator of Western civilization. The ease of sea-borne communication across the western, central, and eastern straits, and the typically storm-free summer months, all made the Mediterranean the Inland Sea of early civilizations. Trade and communication flourished and declined with the ebb and flow of Mediterranean civilizations vying for dominance. The lands ringing the Mediterranean Sea include some of the world’s most renowned tourist destinations, such as the French and Italian Riviera’s, and the Greek Islands. Tourism is now a major source of income for those coastal countries, where a large portion of world tourism income is generated annually. Many millions of people arrive each year to enjoy the Mediterranean’s beaches, historic sites and cultures.