Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Money. Curren. Flus.

My favorate way to say money is "flus". I think it sounds like something that a rapper would make up to talk about buying lots of "ice". It rolls of the tounge, rhymes with everything, and sounds as slick, smooth, and sexy as Gorden Gecko. Expect to hear me us it when I get home.

Morocco has very simple money if your life does not get very complicated. If you
buy normal, simple things in large major towns then it is no problem at all. Most people even can quote the price in either Arabic or French (sometimes English or Spanish), which just makes it even easier for European type tourists. The official unit of currency is the Durham. Like in North Carolina.

The Durham comes in coins of .5, 1, 2, 5 and 10. Bills of 20, 50, 100, and 200. There are two different 5Dh coins and 20 Dh bills. They are available in two completely different styles. Clearly its about a newer release slowly taking over the older style, but all the same its a little confusing at first. You can also find different coins of .5 in value, but they look the same.

Now for the confusing part. There are more coins. Centems. They are (metrically) 1/100th of a Dh. These come in 5,10,20 and 50. There are at least 3 versions of some of these coins, but its not a problem. What really sets them apart is that they are all gold colored and there is no confusion after that. You might wonder if the 50 centim is the same as the half Dh. It is, and it look alike (see above). The problem is that almost no on really "uses" the centim. When its quoted I usually end up confused because it comes as a bit of a suprise. Bread bought directly from a baker often ends up with some confusing centim amount. 1 and 1.5 L bottles of Coke are priced with them, but usually stores round up. Its a difference of (really!) 1 cent. Im flexable in this regard. Thankfully, most prices come in rounded off durham amounts, so when a centim shows up it tends to float around in PCVs pockets for some time. Also because they are of relative little value, I do not know anyone who saves them up for a big purchess like a candy bar. I just used a considerably sized 6 month old pile of mine in paying off my bill at the local veggie stand.

Now for an extra wrinkle. My veggie stand doesnt charge in either centimes, or durham. They only work in the ryal. 20 ryal makes 1 durham. It would be like only talking about prices by the nickel. I have heard that the ryal is the Berber unit of money, but they dont seem to be minting any not being in charge of the government. I can not tell if the Ryal is more used in rural and poor areas or in Berber areas because they are (sadly) often one and the same. Interestingly, you can show someone a bill clearly marked 20 dh and they will tell you its a 400 ryal bill. On no part of this bill are the words ryal, or the number 400. This can cause a bit of a sticker shock, my veggie bill came to a little over 4000 ryal. You might think that the ryal would allow for more exact charges for things, such as 17 ryal. But, in reality almost everything is either in whole or half durham amounts. I have heard that sometimes prices will get quoted in centimes, but I havent had that problem yet. My unproven theory about the ryal is that the durham came along more recently in large part to solve inflation after France went back to their own continate.

Recently I had a 20 Dh bill completely disinegrate in half. I spent an entire day trying to pass it off in various towns as I traveled, but couldnt find anyone who would accept it. Appearly a cut bill is not considered legal tender, or no one had some scotch tape. I couldnt figure out exactly which was the predominate reason, both were given (sometimes by the same person).

The final word on money in Morocco is "surf". Great for going to the beach, bad as a career option. In this context, it means "change". As in, "do you have some change, I cant break this 100 durham bill?" No one has change. Generally, my living allowence is payed out in 100 or 200 durham notes. Usually the 200. This is common practice across the country and makes common since when dealing with paying out one month of standard living. But, making that big note work is a real exersise in diplomany. Few shop owners will flat out refuse to sell something due to lack of small change, but they will be very unhappy with you. This can also lead to an uncomfortable period of time when they (or a young child represenative) have to leave the shop, walk down the street and find change while you stand around wondering just how it is this happens so often. I have found myself hoarding 20 durham notes, or the ever useful 10 dH coins trying to bluff my way though a conversation with people who I judge have the change so I can have a little more spending flexability. I suspect they are doing the same thing to me. The change always seems to be available somewhere, but it is never where you are.

Just for those who are curious. The exchange rate is around 8.5dH to a 1 US $. It has been falling slowly, and everyone tends to still use a 10:1 whersion. Who has that exact rate right now? The Euro.

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