Arabian Middle East Currencies

Bruce Conde

Copyright 8 July 1957
Linn's Stamp News, Sidney, Ohio USA 45365
Reprinted with permission from the July 8, 1957 issue of Linn's Stamp News

Nineteen of the Arab world's 22 states issue distinctive postage stamps at the present time, expressing their value in at least ten different types of currency.

Taking them up from west to east and south throughout the entire Arab national area, they are:

Spanish Sahara: Centimos and pesetas on a par with those of Spain.

Sheifian Empire of Morocco: Centimes and francs throughout most of the empire, tied to the French franc, but with values of stamps used in the former Spanish protectorate zone temporarily expressed in Spanish centimos and pesetas, and, of course, peseta and British pound values on the stamps of the Spanish and British postal offices still operating in the city of Tetuan whose international status is in the process of being eliminated.

Algeria: Centime and franc currency of France in the French-occupied areas and probably also in the liberated areas of the Algerian Republican forces now fighting for their freedom from France.

Tunisia: Centime and franc residues of the former French protectorate regime

United Kingdom of Libya: Milliemes and pounds and par with, or a little higher than, the British pound.

Republic of Egypt: Milliemes, piasters and pounds, at somewhat less than Sterling during the continued financial crisis following the Suez war.

Sudan: Egyptian currency, soon to replaced by Sudanese money in the same terminology and probably of similar value.

Palestine: Milliemes, piasters and pounds of the Egyptian Republic, as used in the Gaza Strip with distinctive "Palestine" bilingual overprint.

Jordan: Fils and dinars on a par with Sterling.

Lebanon: Piasters and pounds at the rate of 320 piasters or 3 pounds 20 piasters to the U.S. dollar.

Syria: Same as Lebanon but usually worth some 10% less.

Iraq: Fils and dinars, on a par with Sterling.

Saudi Arabia: Guerches and riyals, with the riyal being worth around 25 cents U.S. This word riyal probably comes from the old Spanish term real, a coin formerly in circulation both in Spain and Spanish America, which accounts for its appearance on some of the early classic issues of Latin America. It came to mean any large silver coin in the Arabian area, and eventually to designate the Maria Theresa thaler or trade dollar, but the modern Saudi riyal is much smaller than the latter and worth less than a third as much.

Kuwait: Annas and rupees of India, although overprinted on United Kingdom stamps now instead of on those of the former Indian Empire, on a par with the Indian currency.

Bahrain: Same currency as Kuwait.

Qatar, Trucial Oman States, Oman And Muscat: Same currency as Bahrain and Kuwait o/p on U.K. stamps but without state name overprint.

Aden Protectorate: Qaiti and Kathiri states in Hadhramaut alone issue definitive stamps, under Aden superscription and in Aden's East Africa currency, 100 cents to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound, which is approximately equal to the British pound sterling.

Aden Crown Colony: Same currency as protectorate states.

Yemen: Bogash and ahmadis. 40 bogash equal one ahmadi, formerly called 'imadi and commonly called riyal. The Yemeni riyal, corresponding in size and and silver content to the Maria Theresa thaler or trade dollar, is worth approximately 80 cents U.S., instead of 25 cents, which is the value of the Saudi one. The singular of bogash is bogshah. This, and the constant switching back and forth from French to English transliteration of the Arabic spelling has given us the confusing "bogchah", "bogaches", "bogsha"—and its attempted pluralizing in English of an Arabic singular, as "bogshahs"—which appear on the various foreign-printed Yemenite sets.

The only set printed in Yemen itself—Scott's numbers 1, 2 and 3—expressed the individual stamps' value in Arabic writing on the left-hand dagger blade, in fractions of the riyal or 'imadi. Thus: “Naf thumn 'imadi, or 1/2 of 1/8 'imadi”, and “thumn 'imadi” or, 1/8 'imadi respectively. Thus, none of the standard catalogues faithfuly reproduce the terminology expressed on the stamps, which corresponds to actual pentagonal silver coins of the realm in current use today.