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Money of the Kingdom of Bahrain

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The monetary unit for the Kingdom of Bahrain is the dinar, known colloquially (in English) as the 'Bee-Dee' (Bahraini Dinar), as in:

'How much wedge have you got on you?'
'Erm .... about five bee-dee.'

It is subdivided into 1000 fils, a word which probably derives from the Arabic felous meaning 'money'. At the time of writing, the Bahraini Dinar is more or less pegged to the greenback, with BD1 worth around US$2.65. With exchange rate fluctuations, that makes the Bahraini dinar worth between UK£1.60 and two quid.

Issue and circulation of coins and banknotes falls under the jurisdiction of the Bahrain Monetary Agency which was established in 1973. Until 1959, the states of the Arabian Gulf had traded freely in Indian rupees. However, in 1959, the Gulf rupee, backed by the Indian government, was introduced in the Gulf. It was used until 11 October, 1965, when the first Bahraini Dinars came into circulation under the jurisdiction of the Bahrain Currency Board, Majlis Naqd al-Bahrain. The Bahrain Currency Board was replaced by the more powerful governing body, the Bahrain Monetary Agency in 1973, two years after Bahrain's proclamation of independence from the United Kingdom.

The denominations of note currently1 in circulation are BD1/2, BD1, BD5, BD10 and BD20, while the denominations of coinage currently (since March 1993) in circulation are 5 fils, 10 fils, 25 fils, 50 fils, 100 fils and (since 2002) 500 fils (ie BD1/2)2.

The Bank Notes

The current set of bank notes came into circulation in March 1993 - expect the BD20 banknote which was reintroduced in 2001, being the third issue by the Bahrain Monetary Agency of such articles of currency. The notes are all of uniform size, measuring 142mm x 71mm, and feature a watermark of an oryx3 in the map-frame which is common to all the notes.

1/2 Dinar

Perhaps the rarest note in circulation, and being gently withdrawn by the BMA, is the jenny-wren of Bahraini bank-notes, the 1/2 dinar. Despite its relatively small value, there is something in the uncommonness of this creature which gives the recipient a brief shrill of delight.

Ooh look at that ... a 1/2 dinar ... I haven't seen one of those for a while.

On closer inspection, it is not just brown, but a montage of autumn. The obverse face features an octagonally-framed map of the territory of the Kingdom, the coat of arms and an image of a weaver at his loom at the Bani Jamra Village Handicraft Centre, while the reverse face features an aerial view of the Bahrain Aluminium Plant, ALBA. In common with all the notes up to BD10, these vignettes reflect a contrast between old and new; here on the 1/2 dinar note, industry is commemorated.

One Dinar

The one dinar note is generally regarded as being red in colour, although on close inspection, it can be seen to include inter alia salmon, peach, blue, green and charcoal. Notably, red is the dominant national colour of Bahrain, and it is thus apposite that the flagship unit of currency should also be red.

The obverse face bears a hexagonally-framed map of the territory of the Kingdom, the coat of arms (in red) and an engraving of a Dilmun Seal (showing scene of agriculture and animal husbandry), while the reverse face features an impression of the Bahrain Monetary Agency building in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, contrasting marks of quality and fiscal accountability from both ancient and modern Bahrain.

Five Dinars

The five dinar note is primarily blue, although like the other notes, on close inspection, it can be seen to include a variety of less prevalent pastels.

The obverse face bears an eight-pointed star-framed4 map of the territory of the Kingdom, the coat of arms (in blue) and an impression of the south-western tower of Riffa Fort, while the reverse face features an impression of the Bahrain International Airport Terminal Building, viewed from the air-side public car park, thus contrasting the fortress-mentality of days of yore with the contemporary welcome offered to guests at the airport.

Ten Dinars

The ten dinar note is generally regarded as being green, which for the most part it is, although on close inspection, there are definite patches of lilac. And some blue.

Like the 1/2 dinar note, the obverse face bears an octagonally-framed map of the territory of the Kingdom, although the octagon has been rotated by some 22½ degrees so that the points of the octagon are at the poles (N, S, E, W), whereas the octagon on the 1/2 dinar sits with four of its eight sides perpendicular to the sides of the note. On the same side, there is the customary coat of arms (in green) and an impression of a dhow under sail, while the reverse face features an aerial view of the Bahraini and Saudi Arabian Customs and Immigration Island at the mid-point along the causeway which links the two Kingdoms. Clearly here the vignettes represent the contrast between methods of transport and trade.

Twenty Dinars

On the occasion of the National Day, the Bahrain Monetary Agency wishes to announce to the general public that, with effect from 16 December, 2001, it will issue a new BD20 banknote, which will be legal tender. This new banknote will circulate alongside the existing banknotes currently in circulation. The main feature of the new banknote is that the obverse bearing the portrait of HH the Amir of the State of Bahrain
- Press Release, Bahrain Monetary Agency

The big-daddy of Bahraini money is the twenty dinar note. With even just a few of these in your wallet, you may regard yourself as holding-folding. It is generally regarded as being green and orange, and that's just about what it is.

The obverse face bears a circular-framed map of the territory of the Kingdom, the coat of arms (in orange) and an impression of His Majesty King Hamad, while the reverse face features an impression of the Al-Fateh Mosque and Islamic Centre, viewed more or less from the Juffair/Adliya traffic lights by the Gulf Hotel.

The Coins

The current set of coins came into circulation in March 1993, excepting the 500 fils coin which was introduced in 2002, being the second issue by the Bahrain Monetary Agency of such articles of currency. The March 1993 issue retained the denominations from the previous issue with the exception of the 1 fils coin which was deemed to be of no commercial value whatsoever, and withdrawn from circulation.

The 500 fils coin is bi-metallic, with an aluminium bronze circular inner and a 27mm diameter stainless steel outer inscribed on both obverse and reverse with an inscribed octagon. The obverse shows in the bronze-coloured inner section, Bahrain's Pearl Monument, which represents the nations of the GCC, with the words in English 'Kingdom of Bahrain' to the left of the image and the equivalent in Arabic to the right. The whole thing is underscored with '2002'. Significantly the 500 fils coin was minted to commemorate Bahrain's transition in 2002 from (Emirate) State to Kingdom. On the reverse, the entire inner section is taken up with a whopping big '500', above and below which is written 'fils' in Arabic and in English.

There is a common design thread running through the remaining coins (100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 fils) in that whereas the designs on the obverse are generally unique to the coin, written at the rim above the image is the Arabic Dawlat Al-Bahrayn, below, in English, 'State of Bahrain', on the left '1412 H' and on the right '1992 AD'. Likewise, the reverse carries the respective numerals 100, 50, 25, 10 and 5 with a superimposed rectangle containing the word fils written in Arabic, all surrounded by a circular chain-link border at the coin's rim. The rim itself is always milled.

The 100 fils coin is, like the 500 fils coin, bi-metallic (aluminium bronze outer-ring with a stainless steel centre). It weighs in at 6g and is 24mm diameter. In the centre of the obverse field are the arms of Bahrain.

The 50 fils coin is a simple 22mm diameter steel disc weighing 4.5g. The obverse shows an image of two sails poised over the waves above a pearl. The 25 fils is a 3.5g 20mm diameter steel disc, the obverse of which carries the image of a Dilmun seal with a human being, a horned bull and several ritual implements. Finally the 3.35g 21mm diameter 10 fils coin and the 2.50g 19mm diameter 5 fils coin both retain a simple single palm tree design from the first coinage issue.

1May 2003, since 1978.2Notably, shopkeepers readily accept and give change in Saudi riyals, the currency of neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the riyal being pegged to the dinar at a ratio of 10 riyals to 1 dinar.3An antelope, not dissimilar to a gemsbok.4An eight-pointed star is formed by two squares overlain, one rotated by 45°. It is a commonly used Islamic configuration and indeed was used to determine the plan of the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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