Money changers stay away from Iranian rial

Updated 07 May 2013
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Money changers stay away from Iranian rial

Money exchange houses in Makkah and Madinah are refusing to accept Iranian rials from Iranian Umrah pilgrims because the value of the currency has fallen drastically.
Iranians are among the largest groups of foreign pilgrims in the Kingdom this year. They have resorted to using US dollars while abroad due to Iran’s deepening financial crisis, according to Arab News interviews with money exchange offices and retail shop-owners.
The Iranian rial’s value continues to drop in global financial markets, and has fallen far below the Iranian official exchange rate. It takes about IRR 38,450 Iranian rials to buy one US dollar in Tehran.
In February, the annual inflation rate of the Iranian rial reached 121 percent.
Since the beginning of Umrah season, money exchange houses and most shop owners in the holy cities are refusing to accept Iranian rials.
“It is a risk to accept the currency, which is losing value,” said one shop owner. However, some shop owners in Makkah are accepting 50,000 and 100,000 rial notes in the hope that they can sell them later if the value rises.
Gholamreza Rezaie, Iran’s Haj and pilgrimage representative in Saudi Arabia, said that there are more than 500,000 Iranian pilgrims performing Umrah this year. Each pilgrim pays around 30,000,000 rials ($ 2,442) for the pilgrimage. Many of these pilgrims come from the Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tabriz provinces, according to a report.
The deepening cash crisis is forcing Iran to deploy its security forces to patrol the streets of Tehran and other major cities, warning that security men would arrest anyone illegally trading dollars or carrying foreign currency without an official invoice.
A local Arabic daily reported that Adel Maltani, head of the exchange agents committee in Makkah, said the value of 10,000 Iranian rials is worth not more than 75 halalas. It was previously valued at SR 4.
Maltani said that financial markets during the first three months of the Umrah season contracted by 20 percent against the same period last year.
“The volume of exchange ranged between SR 12 and SR 15 million through 17 accredited exchange shops,” he said.
Maltani explained that some Arab countries too are experiencing political uncertainties with adverse effects on their currencies. Pilgrims from these countries are refraining from exchanging large volumes of cash. He cited the example of the Egyptian pound, which fell more than 15 percent in recent months.
The number of pilgrims from Algeria and Morocco has also dropped off from the previous year, Maltani said. “Those coming from Turkey are better off, in terms of their numbers and the volume of money they spend.”


Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 19 April 2018
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Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.