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SAR - Saudi Arabian Riyal



The currency riyal owes its origination to the time when the country Saudi Arabia did not even exist. Before the 20th century commenced, currencies of the foreign countries especially Maria Theresa thalers and British Gold sovereigns circulated and served the monetary needs in Arabia with the exchange rate of 1 Gold sovereign = 5 Theresa thalers. With the establishment of two states, The Hejazi kingdom and the Sultanate of Hejd in quick succession in 1916 and 1921, the need of a common currency was felt. Hejaz introduced "Hejaz riyal" as its official currency that was equal to 20 qurush coin that was further subdivided in 40 para. In 1926, a foreign bank was established in Jiddah and since then more and more banks started establishing as the oil business began to flourish.

Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 when both the states got united to form this new country and in order to stabilize the monetary units, a common currency was launched i.e Saudi riyal. The exchange rate had some corrections later and 1 unit of riyal was set equal to 22 qurush coins and the same rate prevailed till, in the end, in 1960 when it was devalued again to 20 qurush coins and finally in 1963, the currency was decimalized with the introduction of a new subunit to the Saudi riyal i.e. "hallalah". Hallalah divides the riyal into 100 equal parts. In the meanwhile, in 1952, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) was established in accordance to the Islamic laws with the help of USA and various reforms in the currency system were done enabling only a single currency to circulate in the country.

The first own banknotes that Saudi Arabia saw was in the form pilgrim receipts that were issued in the face value 10 riyals in around 1952. Later on they were also issued in face values 5 and 1 riyal. In 1956-57, the second issue of banknotes was made in 5 face values that are 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1 riyal to be used as currency notes and they were put into circulation in 1967. The third and fourth series of banknotes were circulated in 1976 and around 1984 respectively are still in use up to the current date.

The official subunit of the Saudi riyal i.e. "hallalah" was introduced for the first time in the year 1963, which is 1/100th part of riyal and it also converted the orthodox currency system into a decimalized one. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has been taking care of flow of currency in the country since riyal was made the official currency. The coins too, are minted by SAMA and are in 5 denominations that are 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 hallalahs. 1 hallalah coin is also a legal tender in the country but is not in circulation.

For denominations starting from 1 riyal up till 500 riyals, that is the highest face value in the Saudi Arabian currency, SAMA issues banknotes. The 6 denominations in which the bank notes are issued are 1 riyal, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 riyals. The commemorative issues of banknotes of the value 20 and 200 riyals are also in circulation.

Currency Profile

The Saudi Riyal is the name given to the official national currency of Saudi Arabia. It has been the currency for the country since before the name Saudi Arabia existed. The Riyal was also used as the currency for The Kingdom of Hejaz from 1916-1925. It is also the currency of various countries lying in the Arabian Peninsula, which consist of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Yemen. Saudi riyal is often denoted by the sign SR in English language or by "?.?" in Arabic. The ISO 4217 currency code for the currency is SAR and the numeric code is 682.

Saudi Arabia has got about one - fourth share in the total crude oil and petroleum reserve in the world and that shapes the economy of the country. More than 70% of the country’s total revenue is brought in by crude oil and accounts to 90% of the total exports done by the country as it is estimated that Saudi Arabia controls roughly 20% of the world’s total oil reserves. The Saudi stock market index, known as the Tadawul, is the largest stock market in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest growing countries in the world.

A currency as stable as riyal, does help in the overall growth of country’s economy. All the major currencies are accepted in Saudi Arabia alternatively. There are a few restrictions in context of import and export of the currency like the import and export of the local currency is limited up to an amount of 100000 riyals. Exchange of all the other currencies by the way of import-export is permitted except for the Israel shekel that is banned in the country.

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