What Is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD)?

The Moroccan Dirham (MAD) is the national currency of the Kingdom of Morocco and the de facto currency of the Western Sahara region. The Bank al-Maghrib, Morocco’s central bank, controls the issue and circulation of the Moroccan dirham.

 It is made up of 100 santimat. Modern language often refers to five santimat as a rial and one santim as a franc. As of mid-2019, one dirham = $0.10 USD.

Key Takeaways

  • The Moroccan Dirham (MAD) is the currency of the nation of Morocco, replacing the rial as official unit of account.
  • One dirham is equal to 100 santimat, where five santimat are colloquially referred to as a rial.
  • The dirham is also the de facto currency in Western Sahara. Although the dirham is considered a wholly convertible currency, its export is prohibited by law, but is uncontrolled.

History of the Moroccan Dirham

While the Moroccan dirham is the official currency of the country and the rial is no longer in circulation, it is still sometimes referred to in colloquial language. In specific contexts, most notably when buying vegetables in marketplaces, prices will still be quoted in rials. In this regional context, one dirham will equal 20 rials. The primary use of the term rials is 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 alternatively be phrased as costing 20,000 rials. This usage is slowly dying out, as it was more common among older Moroccans, alive during the colonial period, and is not as prevalent among younger people.

The introduction of modern coins made out of copper, silver, and gold came in 1882. Silver coins were called dirham. Also in 1882, the Moroccan rial became the country’s official currency. One rial divides into 10 dirhams or 50 mazunas. In 1912, when most of Morocco became a French protectorate, the Moroccan franc replaced the rial. In Spanish Morocco, the rial replacement was the Spanish peseta. Morocco independence began in 1956 and included the reintroduction of the dirham. However, the franc remained in circulation until the santim replaced it in 1974.

The Moroccan dirham comes in both coin and banknote forms. The banknotes have denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 dirhams. The coins have smaller 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 a picture of the previous king, Hassan II, on the obverse.

The most recent series of banknotes, issued in August 2013, features 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.

The Moroccan Economy

The Moroccan dirham is the contemporary evolution of an ancient form of currency. In pre-Islamic times, the dirham saw use in Arabia, while the Levant, saw use in a large area in Western Asia, bounded by the Taurus Mountains and the Arabian Desert. Like the ancient currency first circulated here, the region which includes Morocco has seen human habitation for tens-of-thousands of years.

The Kingdom of Morocco, located in Northwest Africa is a prominent regional power. The founding of the first nation-state came in 788 A.D., and the area saw a series of independent dynasty rulers. The area was one of the few to avoid Ottoman rule. In 1912, the area split into Spanish and French protectorates but regained independence in 1956. The King of Morocco has legislative and executive control over monetary policy, as well as religious, and foreign policies. He rules through an elected parliament.

In 1777, Morocco recognized the U.S. as an independent nation, the first nation to do so. In the early 1800s, the Moroccan area became colonized by France and later saw Spain declare an interest. By 1904, tensions between the two European nations rose and continued until a treaty in 1912. The region remained unsettled for many years, with fighting between French, Spanish, and indigenous groups of peoples. The press for independence grew and saw realization beginning in 1956.

Attempts to depose the King have failed, and the country remains a constitutional monarchy. Demonstrators, including some during the Arab Spring uprisings, continue to push for reform and to lessen the power of the King. Morocco is a United Nations member, as well as being a member of the African Union, and Arab League. The nation continues to have strong ties to Western powers.

According to World Bank data, Morocco has a highly educated population. The prosperous country experiences no annual inflation and has a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of a 4.1%, as of 2017, which is the most current year of available data.