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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 6 (June 2002), P. 979-1002.

Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Controls on the geometry of transfer zones in the Suez rift and northwest Red Sea: Implications for the structural geometry of rift systems

Adel R. Moustafa1

1Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, Ain Shams University, Cairo 11566, Egypt; email: [email protected]


Adel Moustafa earned a B.S. degree in geology (1973) and an M.S. degree (1978) in photogeology at Ain Shams University. He received a Ph.D. in structural geology at the University of Texas at Austin (1983). He is currently a professor at Ain Shams University and also a consultant for several oil companies working in Egypt. His interests include surface and subsurface structural mapping. He did several structural studies on the Gulf of Suez rift and northern Egypt and has now published more than 50 articles on specific aspects of the structural geology of the area. He is currently completing a detailed structural map for the whole eastern part of the Suez rift in west Sinai. He received the State Award in Geology from the Egyptian Academy for Scientific Research (1998). In addition to the work in Egypt, Adel has field mapping experience in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, and west Texas.


Field mapping of the studied areas was partially or completely funded by Ain Shams University, Kuwait University (Grant SG034), Gulf of Suez Petroleum Company, Belayim Petroleum Company, and the Egyptian Geological Survey. I am indebted to Mourad I. Youssef (Ain Shams University) for critical review of the manuscript and Tom Patton (BP) for fruitful discussions during different mapping phases. Great thanks are due to my colleagues and graduate students M. Khalil, H. Gibali, H. Helmy, O. El Shaarawy, S. Abdel Tawab, A. M. Abd-Allah, M. Abdeen, and A. El-Raey.


Two main types of transfer zones are mapped in the Suez rift and the northwestern Red Sea. These are transfer zones between indi vidual faults (fault-to-fault transfer zones [F-F TZ]) and transfer zones between half grabens with different fault domains (half graben-to-half graben transfer zones [H-H TZ]).

Relay ramps and linking transfer faults are two main recognized types of F-F TZ. Different varieties of these F-F TZ have the form of en echelon fault belts with single or mixed polarity, tilted fault blocks at rift offsets, and zigzag fault arrays at major fault or rift jumps. Relay ramps transfer throw between overlapping normal faults of the same polarity. Linking transfer faults join normal faults that have the same polarity with no overlapping segments, leading to a characteristic zigzag pattern. If the linked faults are listric, local anticlines and synclines develop at the corners of the zigzag fault array.

Three H-H TZ in the Suez rift and northwest Red Sea show the effect of prerift structures (both faults and major folds) on the location, orientation, and style of deformation of the transfer zones of continental rifts. The widest one of these three H-H TZ (40-60 km) has a broad antiformal structure lying between the overlapping ends of the listric faults bounding the two linked half grabens and is deformed by dip-slip normal faults of opposite polarity. The other two H-H TZ reactivate prerift faults by strike-slip faulting due to the angular relationship between these faults and the direction of extension in the rift.

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