Role of Hajj in the introduction of Saudi banknotes

A pilgrims’ receipt, printed in Arabic, Persian, English, Urdu, Turkish and Malayan. (Image courtesy SAMA)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Role of Hajj in the introduction of Saudi banknotes

  • SAMA realized that citizens and pilgrims were happy for the old metal coins to be replaced with the paper notes

JEDDAH: The riyal became the currency of Saudi Arabia since it was founded in 1932. Before that the currency was being used only in the Hijaz region. The first Saudi currency bearing the name of the country, which was smaller and lighter than its predecessor, was minted in silver in 1935.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), the second-oldest central bank in the Arab world, was created in 1952 to develop and unite the Saudi monetary system. Given the fast-paced growth of the economy and increasing revenues, King Abdul Aziz was aware that it was not realistic to continue using metal coins and there was a need for a more practical form of currency. In particular, piles of silver Saudi riyals were a heavy burden for pilgrims to carry with them during Hajj seasons.
In 1953, the king took a courageous decision to issue the first Saudi banknotes. They were known as “pilgrims’ receipts,” each worth 10 silver riyals.
The first batch of 5 million were printed in Arabic, Persian, English, Urdu, Turkish and Malayan. Pilgrims welcomed the new paper currency and it quickly became widely accepted throughout the Kingdom.
Its success encouraged confidence among Saudi traders and citizens. However, pilgrims started to collect the receipts as souvenirs and gifts to take back to their home countries, which prompted the Ministry of Finance and Economy to ban commercial use of them overseas. The acceptance and popularity of the receipts persuaded SAMA to re-issue them in 1954, with the addition of a new 5 riyal denomination, which was followed by 1 riyal pilgrims’ receipt in 1956.
SAMA realized that citizens and pilgrims were happy for the old metal coins to be replaced with the paper notes, so they decided to keep using it after Hajj, rather than returning to the old currency.
In June 1961, Saudi banknotes were issued for the first time, in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 riyals. As a result, the pilgrims’ receipt was phased out in 1965.
Hajj is not only the reason behind the introduction of Saudi banknotes, it has also played an important role in the increasing the value of the currency. As the number of pilgrims coming to Makkah has continued to grow every year, the demand for riyals has increased at banks and local and foreign exchanges; three times as many riyals are purchased during Hajj season than during the rest of the year. This inflates its value and refreshes the market.
The most-exchanged foreign currencies during Hajj are the US dollar, the euro, the Singapore dollar, the Indian rupee, the Indonesian rupiah, the Emirati dirham and the Malaysian ringgit.


King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

Millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi national day on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 23 September 2018
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King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed ‘lend new dimension to unification’

  • More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Day, celebrated every year on Sept. 23, has come a long way in broadening the concept of unification over the years.
Though the National Day meant unifying disparate sheikhdoms under the nation’s founder, the late King Abdul Aziz, its implications across the political, socioeconomic and cultural spectrum have not been lost on successive rulers.
It was King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who fine-tuned the definition of unification as an operating philosophy. This is why millions of citizens plan to celebrate the Saudi National Day on the streets on Sunday.
The capital city, along with other Saudi cities, will witness fireworks and the unfurling of the largest national flag. More than 900,000 fireworks will light up the sky from 58 locations across the Kingdom.
Car owners, limousine drivers and young Saudi motorcyclists said that they planned to go for drives, particularly on the fashionable streets of the capital city, to celebrate. Grocery shops, stationery shops and vendors were selling bunting, flags, banners and pictures of national heroes.
“We went around the city to see the lighting and fireworks,” said Saleh Al-Omri, a local pharmacist. “Green and white balloons fill either sides of Riyadh streets,” he said.
In his National Day congratulatory message, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, said: “The wise policy of the leaders of this country contributed to peace, security and stability.”
Fakhr Al-Shawaf, chief executive of Al-Bawani Contracting Co., said: “We are celebrating the 88th anniversary of our unification, a day when the late King Abdul Aziz established the Saudi nation.”
Ali Al-Othaim, a member of Riyadh Chamber’s board of directors, said: “The Kingdom is on the path of comprehensive economic and social development under Vision 2030.”
Shafik Namdar, a taxi driver, said that he had bought an SR10 flag for his car and planned to work and also drive with his friends to look at the city and its landmark buildings.
Several young boys, including Arslan, 12, and Mishal, 14, said that they had bought bunting, badges and flags to decorate their houses. They planned to celebrate with a special meal at home with relatives, before going into the city streets for dance and music. Some of them had plans to organize celebrations in public parks.