5 facts you may not have known about the Moroccan dirham
Information of Morocco currency: When you think of the Kingdom of Morocco, you probably don’t think of the dirham or the santim. Instead, you probably have visions of Casablanca, Western Sahara, beautiful blue doors, and ornate Islamic architecture.
But if you’re planning to visit Morocco, whether for tourism or a family reunion, you’ll need to focus on more essential elements. Like money.
Which means you’ll need the Moroccan dirham.
Basic facts about the Moroccan dirham
The dirham is the country of Morocco‘s legal tender. It is printed by Bank al-Maghrib and can be divisée en santim. It takes 100 santimat to make 1 dirham. And as Morocco is a multilingual nation, where both Arabic and French are spoken among many other languages, the Arabic santim is called a centime in French. The plural is centimes.
But that’s not all you need to know. Here are the key facts about Moroccan currency:
Currency code: MAD
Coins: 1, 2, 5 and 10
Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200
Sentimat / Centimes: 5, 10, 20, 50
A brief history of the dirham in Morocco
Information of Morocco currency: The Arabic word “dirham” derives from the ancient Greek word drachma. But how did the Greek word end up in Morocco? Simple: conquest and trade. At the height of the Byzantine Empire in 600 A.D., Greek rule extended across North Africa, particularly along the seaports, all the way to Persia. In addition to this, the Greeks did a great deal of business and trading outside the Empire.
The drachma was taken up by other civilizations, notably Persia, Moorish Spain and what would later become the Ottoman Empire.
But as power changed hands, so did Moroccan currency.
Morocco continued to make coins using copper, silver, and gold until 1882. Silver coins were called dirham. The dirham retained its status as the second most valuable currency after the introduction of the Moroccan rial. The rial lasted until 1921, when France took over Morocco.
As a general rule, you’ll need cash, especially for purchases in markets, small stores and emergencies, as well as in places outside the big cities. As for your credit card, it will be usable in most medium to large hotels, luxury restaurants and shopping malls.
If you’re planning to exchange pounds sterling into MAD, euros into MAD or US dollars into MAD in Morocco, you have two options: exchange agencies and the airport counter.
Information of Morocco currency
However, the easiest way to get cash in Morocco is simply to use an ATM to convert your pounds, euros or dollars into darahim. It depends on your bank, but ATM fees are generally lower than those at a bureau de change.
Check with your bank to find out about their off-network or international ATM fees before you travel.
Remember the movie Casablanca? The story took place during the French occupation of the country, when the franc, not the dirham, was used.
Finally, after independence in 1960, the dirham was reintroduced. But this time, as the main currency.
Understanding currency exchange in Morocco
Exchange rates are determined by a number of factors, from government stability to the national economy. While the kingdom has been more progressive under the current king, Mohammed VI, the Moroccan economy continues to struggle due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Morocco relies heavily on trade and tourism, and its overall growth fluctuates according to its agricultural sector.
Due to the economy, its trade balance and other factors, the Moroccan dirham is worth less than the USD, EUR or GBP. Currently, the exchange rate is fairly stable, having hovered around 8 MAD to 1 USD in recent years. You can see historical rates for MAD to USD or other currencies on Oanda’s historical rates chart here.
5 facts you probably didn’t know about the dirham
Information of Morocco’s currency: So, what makes the dirham so special? As you can imagine, with a history and culture as rich as Morocco’s, there’s a lot that can be said about its national currency. Here’s our pick of five interesting facts!
The first dirham banknotes were printed on old francs.
A new country has a lot to do. That’s why, when the modern dirham was first introduced in 1960, the 100 and 50 dirham bills were overprints on original franc bills.
The 100 dirham bill was printed on 10,000-franc bills, and the new 50 dirham bill on 5,000-franc bills.
The plural of dirham is darahim.
Information of Morocco currency: Plurals in Arabic work a little differently from French or English. In French and English, we generally add an “s” to the end of a word to signify that there is more than one element. That’s why a French speaker’s first instinct is to turn a dirham into a dirham.
However, some Arabic words produce a “broken plural. when the middle sounds change. That’s why dirham becomes darahim.
It doesn’t matter if you stick to using only “dirham”. Especially in tourist locations like Casablanca, where local residents are used to hearing the English or French version of the word.
Country markets may use different names.
In the 18th century, the Moroccan monetary system used the Spanish currency system as a reference. This borrowing from Spanish led to the appearance of alternative names for the dirham, such as douro and real for silver coins. You can still hear these terms used in Morocco’s rural markets.
Dirham bills represent the current King of the Kingdom of Morocco.
If you’ve ever seen or held a dirham banknote, you may have noticed that a man is printed on it. This is the monarch of the Kingdom of Morocco.
In 1987, the notes featured King Hassan II. But after his death in 1999, a new bill was designed with his successor, Mohammed VI, and was put into circulation in 2002.
The rial and franc are still in use… sort of.
Information of Morocco currency: Nowadays, the dirham is subdivided into 100 santimat, or centimes if you speak French. However, you can still hear locals calling 5 santimat a “rial” and 1 santim a “franc”.
This is probably because when the new currency was announced in the 1960s, one dirham was equivalent to 100 francs. It wasn’t until 1974 that the santim replaced the franc as the lower denomination.
Exchanging, converting and using the Moroccan dirham
The Moroccan dirham is not a freely convertible currency. This indicates that you cannot purchase it abroad. For this reason, it’s advisable to exchange only the amount you think you’ll need locally, and to make sure you spend it all during your stay in Morocco.
Here are a few more tips on using your Moroccan dirham:
Break 100 and 200 DM bills whenever you can.
Small denominations, such as 5, 10 and 20 DM, are preferred to large ones.
Keep change for cabs.
If no tip is added to your restaurant bill, remember to tip 10%.
Don’t try to bring money with traveler’s checks. Most Moroccan banks do not accept them.
Send money to Morocco with Remitly
For an affordable money transfer to Morocco, take a close look at the fees. Since the exchange rate from USD to MAD, EUR to MAD or GBP to MAD is fairly stable, you’ll be better off focusing on reducing your transfer costs rather than waiting for a better exchange rate.
Other considerations: it’s in your best interest to make sure where and how your loved ones can receive the funds you send them. Look for transfer businesses with a strong partner network.
Remitly is a secure and affordable application for sending money to Morocco. You can send US dollars, euros or British pounds directly to your Moroccan bank account with low transaction fees.
Information of Morocco currency
You can also send money to friends or relatives to collect in cash. All you need to do is provide your bank details to make the transfer.
If you’ve moved from Morocco to work abroad, you’ve come to the right place. It’s estimated that around five million Moroccans live in other countries, representing around 14% of the population. Sending money to Morocco puts you in the middle of a significant endeavor.
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