The riyal has been the currency of Saudi Arabia since the country came into being and was the currency of Hejaz before Saudi Arabia was created, one of the primary currencies in the Mediterranean region during the Ottoman era. The Hejaz riyal was based on but not equivalent to the Ottoman 20 kuruş coin and was consequently divided into 20 qirsh. However, although the Hejaz riyal was the same weight as the Ottoman 20 kuruş, it was minted in .917 fineness, compared to .830 fineness for the Ottoman coin. Thus, because the first Saudi riyal had the same specifications as the Hejaz riyal and circulated alongside Ottoman coins, it came to be worth 22 Ottoman kuruş and was consequently subdivided into 22 ghirsh when coins denominated in qirsh were issued from 1925. The system remained even though the riyal was subsequently debased to a coin equivalent, in silver content, to the Indian rupee in 1935.
In 1960, the system was changed to 20 qirsh to a riyal, which was followed in 1963 by the introduction of the halala, one hundredth of a riyal. Some Saudi coins still bear denominations in qirsh, but it is no longer commonly used.
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