The Kingdom’s central bank is known as the Sa’udi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) – you’ll find this name on all your bank notes – and inside its illustrious portals is a specialised museum of antique Islamic and non-Islamic coins, modern currencies, raw materials used in currency making, displays explaining how banknotes and coins are printed and minted and security features in banknotes.
There are five halls in total. As you enter the first, you will find two silver Dirhams, one minted at Al-Yamamah in the year 165H and the other at Makkah in 283H.
The second hall has a selection of tools and raw materials used in printing banknotes and minting silver and gold coins; and you will also find a gold nugget from Mahd Al-Dhahab mine.
The third hall is the main showroom where many historical currencies are on display, starting with pre-Islamic coins and moving through up to the present day. Vertical cases hanging on the walls show the currencies in circulation in member states of the gulf cooperation council, while another container is divided into two parts: one for the currencies of the Arabian peninsula (within the boundaries of the present day kingdom of Saudi Arabia) during the Islamic era, and the other for those in circulation before the foundation of the Sa’udi state. There is also a central movable globe with samples of currencies used throughout the world.
The fourth hall is dedicated to Sa’udi money in general. It has specimens going back to pilgrims’ receipts during the period 1372-1375H. These receipts were issued in denominations of 10, 5 and 1 riyal. It then moves on up to the different paper monetary issues, including the SR500 denomination note which was first printed during the reign of King Fahd. Of particular interest in this hall is a display of some of the bank notes’ security markings, including the security thread, watermarks, the invisible number, and a metal layer.
Finally, the fifth hall is dedicated to audio-visual displays about currency making, security marks used and the appropriate methods to be followed in checking a bank note’s authenticity.
By the way, the five-storey atrium of the SAMA HQ is worth a visit just on its own. The building was designed by the American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912 – 1986).
The Money Museum is located at SAMA’s head office in Al Ma’ther Street (close to the Intercontinental Hotel), where it is open for visitors during regular working hours.
However, to arrange a visit, you must first call the director of the museum on 01 466-2927. Cameras are not allowed!
SAMA entrance: 24 o39.78’ N; 46o 41.27’ E