RIYAL \ree.AAL\ the basic monetary unit of Saudi Arabia and Qatar
The picture above is of a one riyal Saudi bank note. The Saudi riyal is subdivided into a unit called the HALALA (also HALALAH) equal to 1/100th of a riyal.
There was once an intermediate Saudi denomination, which divided the riyal into 20 units (each equal to 5 halala), but it is no longer in circulation. The difficulty in transliterating Arabic script has led to this denomination being labeled variously as the GIRSH, GURSH, QURSH, QURUSH, and a bunch of other spellings that aren’t allowed in Scrabble.
Qatar used the Saudi currency for a short while, but eventually branched off into its own version of the riyal…
The Qatari riyal is subdivided into 100 DIRHAM .
Unlike the other obscure (to most of us!) currencies I’ve talked about this month, the riyal is considered well known enough to appear in American newspaper crossword puzzles from time to time, albeit only with straightforward clues like [Qatari bank note] or [Saudi Arabian currency].
There are lots of currencies with names very much like the riyal, by the way, many being cognate with it. (What? You don’t remember what COGNATE means? Shame on you! I told you back here.)
Here are some of those currencies, which we might explore in more detail another time…
- 1 Yemeni Rial = 100 FIL
- 1 Omani Rial = 1000 BAIZA
- 1 Irani Rial = 100 DINAR = 10 TOMAN
- 1 Cambodian Riel = 100 SEN
These currencies can trace their names back to an old Spanish coin called the REAL.
So next time you’re playing Scrabble, you can surprise your opponent by pluralizing the otherwise adjectival real to REALS (or by playing its odd-looking variant, REALES). Hopefully I don’t need to remind you that if you didn’t already know this trick, then you owe me a beer!