WHAT IS 'MAD (Moroccan Dirham)'

The Moroccan dirham (currency symbol MAD) is the national currency of Morocco and the de facto currency of the Western Sahara region. The Moroccan dirham is issued by the Bank al-Maghrib, Morocco’s central bank. It is made up of 100 santimat (plural). Popular language often refers to five santimat as a rial and one santim as a franc.

BREAKING DOWN 'MAD (Moroccan Dirham)'

The Moroccan dirham is the contemporary evolution of an ancient form of currency. In pre-Islamic times, the dirham was used in Arabia and the Levant, a large area in Western Asia bounded by the Taurus Mountains and the Arabian Desert. Until 1882, when modern coins were introduced to the region, Morocco issued coins made out of copper, silver and gold. The silver coins were called dirham. In 1882, the Moroccan rial became the country’s official currency. One rial could be subdivided into 10 dirham, or 50 mazunas.

In 1912, most of Morocco became a French protectorate, and the rial was replaced by the Moroccan franc. In Spanish Morocco, the rial was replaced by the Spanish peseta. On October 16, 1960, after Morocco gained independence, the dirham was reintroduced. The franc remained in circulation until 1974, when it was replaced by the santim.

Denominations of the Moroccan dirham

The Moroccan dirham is issued in both coin and banknote forms. The banknotes are issued in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 dirhams. The coins are issued in denominations of ½, 1, 2, 5 and 10 dirhams. The 1, 2, 5 and 10 dirham coins feature an image of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI on the obverse and the inscription “Kingdom of Morocco” on the reverse.  Older coins may include an image of the previous king, Hassan II, on the obverse.

The most recent series of banknotes, issued in August 2013, feature a portrait of King Mohammed VI and the royal crown. The notes also include an image of a Moroccan doorway, as a nod to the country’s architectural heritage and a symbolic reference to its openness.

Popular language and the Moroccan dirham

While the Moroccan dirham is the official currency of the country and the rial is no longer in circulation, the rial is still sometimes referred to in colloquial language. In certain contexts, most notably when buying vegetables in marketplaces, prices are still sometimes quoted in rials. In this context, one dirham equals 20 rials. Rials are typically used when prices are very low or very high. Instead of quoting a price for monthly rent as 1,000 dirhams, for example, the cost may instead be phrased as costing 20,000 rials. This usage is more common among older Moroccans who were alive during the colonial period, and is not as popular among young people.

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