For thousands of years, the Red Sea was the principal highway between the Mediterranean and the lands of Africa, Arabia and the Far East. Ancient Egyptians sailed its waters. Greek sailors learned how to navigate its reefs and use monsoon winds to sail to India and back. Marco Polo returned to Venice through the Red Sea. It was the first coffee route from south Arabia and the Horn of Africa to markets in the north. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 was the start of a new era, but long-distance sailing also made it possible for merchant ships and tankers to avoid Red Sea ports. Political divisions turned the sea into a barrier between republican Egypt and conservative Saudi Arabia. Competition over the Straits of Tiran between the Sinai and the Arabian peninsula triggered the 1967 Arab-Israel war. The Red Sea still lags behind the Gulf, now enjoying the fruits of soaring energy prices and a real estate boom.