Cowrie Currency – History of Money in the Maldives

Cowrie Currency – History of Money in the Maldives

Currency in the Maldives has a long and interesting history…

Walk along a Maldivian beach, imagine it’s 700 years ago – scattered on the sand, washed up by the ocean is money, not money as it is known today though – cowrie shells. The locals, along with many other nations in the world, traded in cowry shells until the 13th century when silver gradually began to be used, first folded straps of silver with Arabic and Persian inscriptions but later, in the mid 16th century, pure silver coins were minted in the Maldives. Later, came gold coins and later still, in the 19th century machines made bronze coins. It wasn’t until 1947 that the first bank notes appeared.

Fast-forward to the present day and in 2016 the currency was brought right up to date with a new collection of polymer bank notes. The new notes are quite literally works of art, the Maldives Monetary Authority held a design work competition and chose local artist, Abdullah Nashaath, to create the designs which depict features of Maldivian life, culture and environment.

The Maldivian currency is the Rufiyaa; one Maldivian Rufiyaa can be split into 100 Laree. It is not possible to purchase the currency before heading off on holiday to the Maldives, and, unless you are planning a stay on a local island it isn’t even necessary to exchange money on arrival – all resorts and most shops in Malé accept only major currencies such as USD$, GBP £, and Euros €. Credit cards are widely accepted but before boarding your Trans Maldivian Airways flight to your chosen resort it is advisable to ensure you have enough US$ for your trip – these will be needed for tipping the waiters, bar staff and housekeepers etc., during your stay.

Enjoy strolling along the white sandy beaches and see how many cowries you can spot – will you be a millionaire of times gone by?